Will you be employable in the digital revolution?
The digital revolution is here and with it comes a host of challenges and opportunities for businesses
and individuals alike.
Advances in technology are occurring at an incredible pace. Artificial intelligence, robotics,
nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology, are just some of the things that will change the future
of work for all Australians. In fact, they’re already happening.
While the Fourth Industrial Revolution (or Industry 4.0 as it is sometimes referred to), offers exciting
advances in technology, it is cause for concern for many workers. An increasing number of Australians
are concerned about the effect of automation will have on their jobs, with around 18 per cent believing
their job won’t exist in 10 years.
What will the future of work look like?
Many media reports on Industry 4.0 focus on the industries which will be hardest hit in terms of job
redundancy and retrenchment, due to technological advances. While it’s true that some industries will
experience a downturn of overall jobs (e.g. manufacturing, utility services, agriculture and fishing), the
truth is that automation will change the way that all of us will work in the future.
The 2017 report The New Work Smarts: Thriving in the New Work Order by the Foundation for Young
Australians (FYA) states that by 2030 there will be a reduction in the need for workers to perform
routine, manual tasks, and an increase in focusing on people, solving strategic problems, and thinking
creatively — regardless of the industry in question.
FYA believes that in 2030 workers will need ‘New Work Smarts’ — smart learning, smart thinking, and
smart doing. By analysing over 20 billion hours to work, using data from the Occupational Information
Network (O*NET), they predict that in just over a decade, workers will spend:
- 30 % more time learning on the job
- Almost 100 per cent more time solving problems
- 41 % more time on critical thinking and judgement
- 77 % more time using science and mathematical skills
- 17 % more time per week using verbal communication and interpersonal skills.They’ll also need to develop an entrepreneurial mindset due to:
- 26 % less management
- 14 % less organisational coordination
- 20 % less teaching.
Those who will succeed in the future economy are those who can adapt to change, and upskill in order
to perform jobs that will complement new technologies. To this end, the ability to continually learn, will
be vital in order to remain employed.
How do I stay employed?
A recent World Economic Forum report, Towards a Reskilling Revolution, looked at the US job market.
Researchers also used the O*NET database which grouped individual jobs into clusters of related
professions or ‘job families’. The database also included occupational information such as required skills,
knowledge, abilities, education, training, and experience to perform a job. From this, researchers were
able to develop a job-fit matrix.This job-fit matrix enables workers, employers, and career service professionals to identify which
current jobs can transition into other roles.
Researchers looked at US workers whose jobs are expected to disappear with the advent of new
technology. Based on the skills, job knowledge, education and experience they already had, researchers
were able to determine which jobs could transition into other roles.
Is the transition viable?
While useful in helping individuals know how they can transition from one role to another, the index
alone it doesn’t indicate whether the transition is desirable. According to the report:
“In order to be able to say that a viable job transition opportunity represents a desirable job transition
option, we require a pairing of a starting job and target job that involves:
- stable long-term prospects, i.e. a job transition into an occupation with job numbers that are
forecast not to decline.
- wage continuity (or increases), i.e. a level of employee remuneration for tasks performed in the new job that does not fall below a level that would allow the individuals concerned to maintain their current standard of living.”
So, this begs the questions: How can you ensure that a job transition pathway is viable? And what
should you do, if the pathway is not viable?
You need to upskill
In most cases, you will need to upskill. But the level of further study and work experience will generally
depend upon the salary level you’re willing to accept. Generally speaking, if you’re looking for pathways
that will maintain or grow your current salary, you are likely to require two years of extra education and
two years of additional work experience.
However, if you’re more concerned about being able to transition into a job and accept lower wages (in
the short term), then you will usually only require one year of extra education.
Going back to the US model, workers willing to accept lower wages will have on average 48 available job
transition opportunities. However, for those who wish to maintain their current salary, the number of
job transitions falls to half this amount. So while redundancy is never ideal, you are in control to some
extent, over which pathway you choose.
Either way, it seems that Australians are well-aware of the need to learn new skills, with Seek research
suggesting that 47 per cent of the workforce plans to stay job-relevant through on-the-job training,
while 30 per cent intend to further their formal education.
What skills will we need?
While it will be important to learn new technologies, improving existing skills and learning new ones will
be essential if you’re to remain employable. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2016 report, The Future of Jobs, 35 per cent of core skills required to perform most jobs across all types of occupations, will change by 2020. The table below
shows how the top 10 skills will vary between 2015 and 2020.
5 ways you can prepare for the digital revolution
It’s clear that the future of work will place a higher value on skills and capabilities, rather than jobs. The
more skilled and capable you are, the higher your value as an employee. So, rather than fear the change
that will inevitably come, embrace the opportunities that lie in front of you.
Here are our top five tips to ensure your future career success:
- Focus on the opportunities at hand, instead of perceiving them as a threat.
- Ask yourself how will your current job change in the next five years. Will it still exist? How will it
- Identify your knowledge or skill gaps, and be willing to upskill.
- Accept that you may need to transition into another role, and possibly into another ‘job family’,
in order to avoid unemployment.
- Consider taking a salary cut in the short-term, in order to secure employment, and opportunities
for the longer-term.