Over the past 70 years, the nature of work in Australia has transformed. The rst major shi was a gradual transition in the industries Australians worked in. Jobs in construction, manufacturing, mining and agricultural decreased while service sector jobs increased and now employ 80 per cent of Australians.
A second shift has been an increase in interaction jobs and a decrease in production and transaction jobs. Interaction jobs involve more complex human interactions and judgements. They include roles such as sales account managers, nurses, or construction managers. Production jobs involve making and moving things – such as manufacturing production line workers or construction workers. Transaction jobs involve procedural, rules-based tasks, such as bookkeepers or clerks. Interaction jobs now account for 50 per cent of jobs in Australia, and will account for 60 per cent of the workforce by 2030.
The skills needed to perform jobs are also changing. Digital and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are increasing in importance. Basic digital literacy skills include the ability to use digital platforms and programs to communicate, market, transact and nd information. More advanced digital skills include the ability to design, build, con gure and use digital platforms, programs and systems and to develop so ware and algorithms.22 Ninety-two per cent of future jobs will require some form of digital skills,23 making digital literacy an essential foundation workforce skill, in the same league as basic literacy and numeracy today. Australia’s employment mix
is also changing to require and favour a higher quotient of STEM jobs and skills. Occupations currently requiring STEM skills are outstripping overall employment growth.
By 2030, jobs across the board will require employees to spend more time using 21st- century skills. These include interpersonal, creative, problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills (Figure 5). Workers will spend less time on predictable physical tasks, such as scanning grocery items at a supermarket check-out, or rote administrative tasks, such as processing expenses, because these functions can be automated. Although the workplaces of the future will still require employees to work with machines, the nature of the relationship with those machines will likely be very di erent. Success will require workers to have the ability to communicate and empathise with other workers and customers, as well as the skills to use the advanced tools that technology will make available.
These trends mean education needs to develop and support both STEM skills and humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) skills that nurture interpersonal skills such as empathy and creativity.
These skills are not just a future imperative for workers. Between 2012 and 2015, digital skills were the fastest growing skill set sought by Australian employers in early-career roles (growing at 212 per cent per year), alongside critical thinking (158 per cent), creativity (65 per cent) and presentation skills (25 per cent). Early-career jobs requiring these skills pay around $8000 more per year.
Although there are exciting employment opportunities ahead, they will vary by location and industry. Digital disruption and automation will continue to change the mix of industries and jobs in Australia. The non-linear nature of disruptive technological change will make it challenging to predict the new jobs that will be created, the jobs that will be lost, and the timing of such changes. This uncertainty can be disconcerting, but it does not mean that the net result will be negative for jobs. In the early 1990s, just over 90,000 Australians were employed as bank tellers. By 2014, this figure had almost halved to around 50,000 people as roles were replaced through self-service technologies, such as internet banking and automatic teller machines. However, counterbalancing this decline in tellers was a dramatic increase in the number of finance professionals – a job that requires more specialist advisory skills. These roles grew from just over 30,000 people to around 90,000 people in the same period.
Given the mix of future occupations is uncertain, but the skills needed to perform them are clear, it is important that Australia’s education system provides the right foundation of skills to give every child the best chance in life, and provides the lifelong opportunity to retrain throughout their working life.