Australian workers need to sharpen IT skills for jobs of the future
Written by Nathan Stitt, ABC News, 10 November 2016
One in two jobs in Australia will require high-level programming and IT skills within 15 years, a report has forecast.
The report, commissioned by the National Broadband Network (NBN) and produced by the Regional Australia Institute, suggested a major shift in the role IT plays in many Australian jobs — with 50 per cent of employees in 2030 to be in roles requiring high-level programming, coding and software design skills.
A rise in roles such as app and web developers, AI interface programmers and data analysts was also predicted, while IT roles that require less specialist knowledge are expected to be replaced with automation as technology improved.
The report also predicted the future job market would “have a decrease in the number of lower skilled occupations” but that they would be “an increase in comparatively higher skilled and higher paid occupations”.
Regional Australia Institute chief executive Jack Archer said the dramatic change was already underway.
He said the education system and existing employees needed to gear their training around future needs.
“So you’ve got to think about the future. Your own ambitions, and whether you want to stay in an industry where there’ll be fewer jobs or whether there are other things you’d like to do with your life,” Mr Archer said
The report suggested within the next two to five years 90 per cent of the workforce would need IT proficiency to stand any chance of landing a new job.
“We can’t predict the future or the job mix but we know these skill sets will be important,” Mr Archer said.
“If people aren’t comfortable with technology, that 90 per cent of people will need digital skills — get some. Get a connection at home. Get a computer and tap into some of the great courses that we’ve got to overcome that digital divide.”
Report highlights need for IT focus in schools
The report said the generation of skills must begin in the classroom with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) subjects, as well as entrepreneurship, art and design.
Brighton Secondary School STEM coordinator Stephen Read said students were embracing the growing digital focus of their studies.
“They come into this classroom a fair bit ahead of me and that’s cool,” he said.
“It’s more about me showing them how they can most effectively and efficiently use the software.”
Mr Read said the digital jobs his students would enter would not guarantee them employment for life, which is why they were being taught much more than just the specialist knowledge required.
“They have to be resilient, adaptable and have to be able to turn their hand to a whole pile of scenarios to secure that work,” he said.
“If you’re intimidated by new learning, that’s where problems will start.
“If you’re not, if you’re a lifelong learner, you won’t have any problems jumping onto a computer you know nothing about because that thirst for knowledge will drive you.”
The NBN has promised to deliver high-speed internet access of up to 100 megabits a second, but many Australian households are still waiting for the infrastructure.
The network said it was on track to have one third of households connected by June 2017. The total cost to taxpayers is estimated at $49 billion.
Mr Read said despite the cost, the infrastructure was needed to prepare students for the jobs of the future and provide that same opportunity to Australians regardless of where they lived.
“As a teacher I’m really worried about equity,” he said.
“Students out at Coober Pedy should have access to the same opportunities our kids have got. That idea of equity, I believe, the NBN can provide.”