Outback entrepreneurs, digital skills needed to future-proof regional towns: study
Written by Nathalie Fernbach, ABC News, 23 November 2016
A study on the future of work has identified that children will need mix a of both “nerdy” digital and soft personal skills for success in the 2030 job market.
As technology develops and automation becomes increasingly prevalent many are speculating what the job market of the future will be like.
The Regional Australia Institute in conjunction with NBN Australia has conducted a study to examine how job market changes could play out in various locations around Australia and how educational institutions are responding to this trend.
“There has been a lot of change in the work force already in regional areas and this is going to continue,” said the institute’s Jack Archer.
“People are worried about their long term future… and they are also concerned about what the job market will look like when their kids come out of school and are looking for work in 10 or 15 years,” he said.
North Queensland case study reveals hard work ahead of outback towns to meet change
The Future of Work – Setting Kids up for Success study assessed the skills, adaptability, educational opportunities and digital literacy of six case study towns to determine their readiness for the job market of 2030.
Charters Towers in north-west Queensland was chosen as a case study site as it represented a regional centre with an agriculture-based economy.
Mr Archer said rural centres like Charters Towers had significant challenges ahead with 39 per cent of the region’s jobs forecast to change within 15 years.
“The other challenge for Charters Towers is that the learning readiness isn’t as high as some other regions, so below average for secondary literacy and numeracy and adult learning and the skills mix is below average,” Mr Archer said.
Mr Archer said regional towns could start future-proofing by improving their digital literacy and developing new business opportunities around technology.
“One of the key things that regions need to do is not only try and slow the pace of change but also get people up on their toes being entrepreneurial and creating businesses in some of these new industries,” Mr Archer said.
“The technology that is coming into agriculture and other regional industries is really significant and if people are proactive in regional areas they can get a part in building companies and services that take advantage of that trend,” he said.
School of distance education rises to digital challenge
The Charters Towers School of Distance Education has been delivering its curriculum online for many years.
Deputy principal Andrew Smith said the school was at the leading edge with its use of technology and focussed on getting bush kids ready for a digital future.
“It is more than just an online curriculum,” Mr Smith said.
“It is about having students engage in the digital world and extending the boundaries of the traditional classroom so that students can experience a range of things that they otherwise wouldn’t experience in their local context,” he said.
Mr Smith said rural students could be at a disadvantage when it came to digital literacy, but said advances in technology were improving access.
“It is certainly improving all the time, it is still variable there are still those who have very good connectivity while there are others who have limited connectivity,” Mr Smith said.
Mr Smith said students were excited about jobs that engage with the digital realm, and cited jobs in robotics and games programming as aspirations.
“There is a level of excitement there and we are seeing kids very eagerly engaging with the digital curriculum,” Mr Smith said.
“It is a very, very different world now and kids by and large are excited about that,” he said.
Key findings reveal divergent employment pathways
The study suggests up to 90 per cent of jobs will require basic digital literacy within five years and by 2030 half of all jobs will require advanced computer skills.
Mr Archer noted that “soft skills” such as critical thinking, problem solving, social skills would also be in demand into the future.
“Some people will be really into the digital side and become specialists in that and other people will be more into the personal, human engagement side of the workforce,” Mr Archer said.
Results of the study and educational tools can be found on the Regional Australia Institute website.