New Economy Journal

Preparing Young People for the Changing World of Work

The Young Person’s Issue

Volume 1, Issue 5

August 5, 2019

By - Alex Snow

Piece length: 1,310 words

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How is this New Economy? For The Young Person’s Issue, NEJ reached out to youth peak bodies Interns Australia and The Foundation for Young Australians to get their visions for the new economy. The following contribution from The Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) addresses the future of work and the shift to a system that values transferable skills and promotes lifelong learning. To prepare young people for the new economy, we need to start thinking about skills that serve a cluster of jobs. FYA have identified 7 such clusters, and have produced an evidence base to guide people as they negotiate the new and rapidly evolving labour market. 



[1] How work is changing
[2] Building a portfolio of skills
[3] Relevant paid work experience
[4] A new approach to career education and management
[5] Business as usual is not an option

[1] How work is changing

Change has always been a constant in the world of work. However, compared to the more gradual shifts of eras gone by, the pace of change in the fourth industrial revolution is unprecedented. There is widespread consensus that this change is driven in particular by three key economic forces: automation, globalisation and flexibility.

Automation is predicted to transform every job across the Australian economy by 2030 and 90% of future jobs will involve digital literacy. Technological advancement has made us part of an increasingly globalised economy, in the near future, 11% of service jobs are predicted to be sourced overseas.[1] With this comes a global labour pool, where workers are no longer restricted by their geography for their livelihood as long as they have a computer and an internet connection. While the archetypal worker is a full-time employee on an indefinite contract, we have already seen the amount of young people in casual full-time employment more than double since 1992 and almost one in five are juggling multiple jobs to work full-time hours.[2]

The combination of these factors means that the average 15-year-old will need to be able to negotiate an average of 17 jobs over five careers in their lifetime.[3]

Already some young people are being left behind, with almost one in three young people either unemployed or underemployed, and transitions from education and training to full-time work taking longer and longer.[4]

So how do we prepare 4.6 million young Australians for this changing economy? And how do we ensure that in the midst of this change work maintains reward and opportunity for all young people?

[2] Building a portfolio of skills

A critical step towards being able to negotiate our changing economy is building an understanding of the skills we need for the future of work.

The Foundation for Young Australian’s (FYA) New Work Order report series suggests that to navigate this dynamic world of work, rather than developing a set of skills for a one occupation, young people need to build a portfolio of skills including technical or job specific skills and enterprise skills such as digital literacy, financial capability, presentation skills and critical thinking.

In Australia, employers are specifically demanding enterprising skills among young employees across organisations, not only from senior management. It is estimated that future jobs will demand transferable enterprise skills 70% more than the jobs of the past, and employers are willing to pay a premium of over $8,800 for young job seekers who have them. In particular, demand for digital literacy has risen 212%, bilingual skills has risen 181% and critical thinking skills has risen 158% in early-career job ads in the last three years alone.[5]

Building enterprise skills and knowing how to articulate them has proven to accelerate a young person’s transition from full-time education or training into full-time work 17 months faster and is an essential component of the future career portfolio. But with over 1,000 different occupations in Australia, it can still be overwhelming for young people today to know what enterprise skills they’ll need to develop for their future employers.

[3] Relevant paid work experience

Experience in the workplace has always been valuable in preparing individuals for full-time work in that it supports the development of relevant job-specific skills as well as enterprise skills. In a world where the most in-demand jobs didn’t exist ten years ago,[6] FYA’s New Work Mindset research re-defined what is relevant paid work experience from a skills perspective.

By analysing millions of job advertisements, thousands of occupations can be grouped into just seven clusters of work based on the shared skills and capabilities. What this reveals is that, on average, when an individual trains or works in 1 job, they acquire skills for 13 other jobs.[7] The seven clusters identified in the Australian labour market are:

  • The Generators cluster focuses on skills related to generating sales and interpersonal interaction in retail, hospitality and entertainment.
  • The Artisans cluster includes skills related to generic manual tasks as well as technical skills specific to construction, production, maintenance or technical customer service.
  • The Carers cluster includes generic and technical skills related to improving the mental or physical health/well being of others, including medical, care and personal support services.
  • The Technologists cluster focuses on the skilled understanding and manipulation of digital technology, including programming and IT software development.
  • The Coordinators cluster includes skills related to administrative tasks and behind-the-scenes process or service tasks.
  • The Informers cluster focuses on skills related to the content required to provide education or business advisory services and teaching related skills.
  • The Designers cluster deploys skills and knowledge of maths, science and design to construct or engineer products or buildings.

Based on this information young people can use the cluster model to identify a group of skills they have and another group of skills they need in order for them to transition more quickly to a cluster of occupations they’re interested in. Instead of focusing upon a particular occupation, a young person could think about developing a portfolio of skills that opens doors to a group or ‘cluster’ of jobs as on average skills acquired from one job are portable to 13 other jobs.[8]

They can also use this cluster model to find relevant paid employment early on to speed up their transition to full-time work after completing their education rather than working in an unrelated field like hospitality or retail as many students do to support themselves. A young person who has 5,000 hours of relevant paid work experience across that cluster speeds up their transition by 12 months.[9]

We also know that some of these job clusters require more workers than others, and young people with experience in in-demand areas of work such as health, professional services or information technology, can get to full-time work on average five months faster than other areas.[10]

[4] A new approach to career education and management

We have a responsibility to provide future focussed information in ways young people want to learn, to enable them to thrive. Changing the narrative around preparing for a career can make a substantial difference to how young people feel and prepare themselves for work. With a clearer narrative and better understanding of how they can transition into work by 18, a young person can speed up the transition for a young person from school to work by two months.[11]

A new mindset is required. This mindset shift is required not just of young people but of employers, educators, parents and policy makers.

On the supply side, young people can think about how their existing skills would be valuable for multiple different roles. On the demand side, employers should consider the breadth of potential candidates from different occupations with similar skills. If this mindset shift was to take place, we might view the debate around a skills mismatch differently: training for one occupation and working in another occupation would not be a ‘mismatch’ if a person was developing or deploying a relevant skill set.

A shift to a system that values transferable skills and promotes lifelong learning is now more critical than ever.[12]

[5] Business as usual is not an option

Australia’s best future lies with a generation of young people that can create a prosperous and equitable society, and we need to be focused on preparing them effectively for this future at all levels of education, policy development and industry.

To get to where we need to by 2030, and to avoid the economic and social crisis that is looming, we need a strong framework that delivers systemic change and that is based on evidence. We also need to bring together a cross-section of the community including employers, educators and government to make this work. Young people, as the learners at the centre of this reform, are crucial to this conversation and must be involved in the thinking and design of future learning systems and environments.


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