Future Proofing your Career

Future Proof your Career

I have heard it said that the Uber business model is and always was based on the assumption that drivers will ultimately be replaced by autonomous vehicles. Ten or even five years ago such a proposition may have appeared fanciful but today it is imminent and part of mainstream thinking. We have factored in a new wave of worker redundancy in the wake of rapid technological change.

A recent report from Australians for Young People tries to make sense of this new normal and offers some guidance on how we can adapt.

The New Work Order Report 2016 draws on an analysis of big data to identify past and future trends in employment and career development. The big data source was almost three million job advertisements posted over the past two years. The AYP boffins crunched the data to identify the skills employers are looking for across the more than 1000 occupations in the Australian economy. The results invite a shift in the way we think about jobs, careers and education.

The report identifies seven “job clusters”, each containing a range of occupations with similar skill sets. Before we look at these clusters let’s consider the two broad types of skills.

Hard skills are largely about technical know-how. Soft skills – sometimes called generic or enterprise skills – are non-technical attributes that inform the way we approach and carry out our work. For example, a bus driver must be highly proficient in the technical and mechanical skills required to operate an articulated, multi-passenger vehicle in busy road conditions. These are hard skills. The bus driver must also be able to relate to people (work mates, passengers) and manage time. These are soft skills.

The AYP report argues that it is these soft skills that are transferable across different job clusters and occupations.

The 7 Job Clusters

The Generators – high level of interpersonal interaction in retail, sales, hospitality and entertainment.
The Artisans – skill in manual tasks related to construction, production, maintenance or technical customer service.
The Carers – improve the mental or physical health or well-being of others, including medical, care and personal support services.
The Informers – professionals providing information, education or business services
The Coordinators – involves repetitive administrative and behind-the-scenes processes or service tasks
The Designers – involves deploying skills and knowledge of science, mathematics and design to construct or engineer products or buildings.
The Technologists – requires skilled understanding and manipulation of digital technology.

Some research indicates we could have as many as 17 changes of employers over 5 career paths. So instead of thinking about a “dream job” and linear career path, the AYP report suggests we should be viewing the foundations of career development as adaptable, portable skill sets that allow us to move between occupations in response to changes in the economy and jobs market. For example, someone who has trained in beauty therapy will have skills that are transferable to nursing as both occupations fall into the Carers cluster. Our bus driver will have skills that might suit a job in logistics management.

Of all the clusters, the most future-proof are Carers, Informers and Technologists, according to the report. Digital literacy will remain a must-have across all clusters with a 212% increase in employer demand for these skills since 2012.

What does this mean for educators?

The value of soft skills has been recognised by educators for decades. Wikipedia tells me that the term “soft skills” was coined in a 1972 US Army training manual. In Australia, formal consideration of the value of soft skills began with the federal government’s 2002 Employability Skills Framework and continues today in the Core Skills for Work Framework. Unfortunately, like so much in our education system, good ideas and common sense are too often cloaked in overly-complex, turgid policy and process documents. But as any good educator or employer knows, the attributes and attitude a person brings to a job are just as important as their know-how.

We need to sharpen our enterprise skills

Planning and organising, decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and innovation, communication, teamwork, working within roles and protocols. These skills are essential in any job and must be brought to the centre of our education and training programs. Too often they are left at the margins and yet it is proficiency in these areas that so often makes for a talented employee doing their best work.

As someone preoccupied with training events professionals I am pleased to report that the skills sets we offer in our training are highly portable and adaptable across a range of job clusters.

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