They are the essential qualities everyone will increasingly need to thrive in their careers, employment experts say. And if you want to almost guarantee you’ll always have a job, healthcare could be the sector to aim for.
An event in Perth organised by think tank the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) brought together specialists from education and business to examine how to build a future proofed workforce.
Amid fears technology will decimate the workplace, sometimes called “robot anxiety”, Julie Hobbs, the chief executive officer of FutureNow, the Western Australian Creative and Leisure Industries Training Council, was less pessimistic.
“I like to reframe it from ‘the future of work’ to ‘the work of the future’, and there’s going to be plenty of it,” Hobbs told the event last month.
“What’s really happening is jobs are changing, the routine parts changed by automation, and that’s allowed for greater efficiency.”
Hobbs cited accountancy, a sector seen as ripe for a digital takeover: “All of the stuff that gets done by cloud-based programs means the accountant or bookkeepers can provide more of an analytical and advisory role, and we’re seeing that across a whole range of industries.”
The more a job could be fashioned to be “human centric” the more likely it was to survive.
Annie Fogarty, the executive chairperson of the Fogarty Foundation, an organisation that invests in innovative education projects, said the education system wasn’t keeping up with what employers were looking for in staff. And that’s where the four Cs come in.
“Employers are looking for people who are adaptive, who can keep on learning and taking on new skills and these require interpersonal attributes,” Fogarty said.
“We’re calling these ‘competencies’. There’s lots of discussion about what competencies young people will need and the OECD have distilled this down to the four Cs,” she said.
The first was creativity: “This is not just new ideas but how present ideas can be used in different contexts and how we take these ideas and make things happen.”
The second C was critical thinking and problem solving; the third collaboration: “Problems are only going to become more complex, therefore solutions will need much more multidisciplinary working with people across sectors.”
The final, and probably most key C, was communication: “This means employees will have to effectively articulate ideas and describe how they are going to take them from screen to the real world.”
“Universities are looking past scores to see other competencies and other activities that younger people have done to see if that makes them suitable for their courses,” Fogarty said, “[and] employers are looking past having a degree and instead at the whole portfolio of all the different things (a potential employee) can bring to a job.”
Forgarty said a new “education ecosystem” was needed to bring together school, universities, colleges and businesses to see how each could support each other to ensure graduates were prepared for the changing world of work.
It was a premise supported by Rio Tinto human resources vice president Nicky Firth.
“The rate of change is just phenomenal. We’re grappling with how do we retune our intake, what are the skills we need, things like data science mechatronics rather than just traditional disciplines?,” Firth said.
“[We are also looking for] graduates that are learning in environments that are mimicking the workplace, so working alongside technology and data to get work done in a complex, fast environment.”
Hobbs said creative and hands-on roles were the ones most likely to have a future, such as those in content creation, hospitality, tourism, education and health, although there are also fears many of these jobs will be low paid and part time.
“The research suggests the kind of occupations least susceptible to automation are those that involve creative thinking and interpersonal skills, sometimes described as ‘high-skills, high-touch’ roles,” Hobbs said, citing professional services that involve a high level of consultation with clients and the creative industries and in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) sector.
“Those roles are growing at twice the rate of other occupations.
“In these forward-facing occupations, the interpersonal is incredibly important.”
But, Hobbs said, the increasing trend towards new technology in jobs could go too far, and just over complicate the situation.
“The risk, employers tell us, is that technology might get in the way. When you’re buying a $4 coffee, if the barista is too busy entering data in the machine and forgets to look at you that is not an optimal outcome.”