Aussie EdTech Sector Booming

report released today by Deloitte and EduGrowth at the 2020 Universities Australia conference in Canberra has shown the percentage of organisations focused on corporate and vocational learning solutions has increased (from 24% to 38% and from 33% to 42%, respectively) since 2017. A shift that indicates future of work solutions are increasingly in the frame.

Travel restrictions on Chinese students likely to have a devasting impact on education providers

Travel restrictions on Chinese students likely to have a devasting impact on education providers
The travel ban on non-Australian residents travelling from China has been extended by the Australia government. The measure that has angered the Chinese government and rocked the higher education sector in Australia, which has a heavy reliance on Chinese international students.   

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The Morrison Government appoints interim National Skills Commissioner for the new National Skills Commission

Adam Boyton has been appointed as the interim Commissioner and is tasked with overseeing the early design work on how to nationally forecast skills demand in industry and options for a new funding model for VET qualifications.

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The price of freedom for freelancers

A 'portfolio approach' to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition. CREDIT:LINDSEY THOMAS

To all the freelancers: would you give up self-employment for a full-time corporate job that offers greater security? A change that trades the autonomy and lifestyle of freelance work for the regular pay, benefits and interaction of an office job.

I would struggle with it. Having been self-employed for 12 years I cannot imagine commuting to and from work, taking instructions from a boss, wasting time in unnecessary meetings, being stressed by company politics or sitting at a cubicle all day. Or sacrificing income and relying on one employer to put food on the table, in a ruthless jobs market.

A 'portfolio approach' to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition.
A ‘portfolio approach’ to jobs is making more employees consider freelance life as a long term proposition. CREDIT:LINDSEY THOMAS

I’m not alone. About half of freelancers surveyed in the latest Freelancing in America Report said there is “no amount of money where they would take a traditional job”.

For the first time, as many survey respondents viewed freelancing as a long-term career choice, not a temporary way to make money.

Technology is making it easier for freelancers to find work, and the gig economy, despite its faults, is encouraging a portfolio, project-based approach to jobs.

For context, an estimated 57 million people freelance in the United States, or just over a third of the country’s workforce, and half of them believe they will never return to a traditional job.

Yes, extrapolating survey results can be dangerous. Released this month, the Freelancing in America Report 2019 surveyed 6001 US adults. It broadly defines freelancers as people who have engaged in supplemental, project-based or contract-based work within the past 12 months. The data picks up freelancers, independent contractors, “moonlighters” such a food couriers, and “job hustlers”, those people in full-time work who have a part-time gig on the side.

My guess is the online sample attracted many successful freelancers, skewing the results and positivity. There are downsides with freelancing: no leave entitlements, lack of professional development, isolation and clients who take forever to pay.

Also, the finding that “no amount of money” would entice half of US freelancers to return to a corporate job is curious. Everybody has their price and I’m sure many would jump at an office job that doubled or tripled their income even if they missed the freelance lifestyle.

I doubt the US finding would be anywhere near as strong here. There is scant data on Australia’s gig economy and freelancer estimates vary. The Future of Work in Australia report in 2018 estimated just under 10 per cent of Australian workers have multiple jobs (excluding independent contractors who have one job) and that the figure has been steady for years.

Talk about the gig economy boom in Australian is arguably overstated, although numbers and growth are much higher if independent contractors are added in the mix.

Caveats aside, the US report has several implications.

First, freelancers will become a larger part of the global workforce in the next decade. More part-timers are moving to full-time freelance work and freelancers contribute nearly $US1 trillion to the US economy.

Second, there is growing anti-corporate sentiment among freelancers. When half of US freelancers say they would never return to a traditional corporate work, you know something is wrong with the job design, corporate culture and how companies treat staff.

Third, industry will struggle to attract talent from a large and growing pool of freelancers in coming decades as skills shortages intensify. Companies will need to replace retiring baby boomers but more people will work for themselves and be reluctant to return to a traditional job. The gig economy that helped corporates lower costs could come back to bite them.

When half of US freelancers say they would never return to a traditional corporate work, you know something is wrong…

Fourth, governments worldwide are off the pace in the gig economy. Scant thought has been given to how freelancers and other self-employed people are protected, encouraged and developed, or to the infrastructure needed for an army of freelancer workers. More councils launching co-working facilities in the suburbs and regional areas would be a good start.

How can new regulations help freelancers flourish and ensure the gig economy does not become a sewer of freelancer exploitation by big business? For example, moonlighters in the on-demand economy – food couriers are particularly vulnerable. Left unchecked, the gig economy is an avenue to bring developing-nation-like wages and conditions to parts of our workforce.

Universities and vocational training colleges are also lagging in the gig economy. What is their role in helping people develop specialist freelance skills and encouraging them to engage in lifelong learning and professional development? Too much university education is still geared towards corporate work.

How are service providers responding to the freelance boom? When will it be easier for freelancers to borrow money from banks or rent a property for a home-based business, or get cheaper legal and accounting advice or insurance?

How does being a freelancer affect your chances of getting a loan?

And what of the societal implications of the freelancing boom and gig economy? For every successful micro-venture, many more struggle. Also, as the supply of freelancers grows worldwide, their income and conditions will inevitably stagnate – a trend well underway in some knowledge-based jobs. Then there are potential health issues as more people work on their own and lose the benefits of office interaction and colleague support.

Thankfully, Australia seems a long way behind the US in the freelancer stakes (depending on how it is defined). Yet the trend is heading in one direction: more people leaving traditional jobs for self-employment and having a portfolio of project-based work.

‘Dead-end job’: Trucking sector demands training overhaul

Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure.

Small businesses in Australia’s trucking industry say the sector is struggling due to a poor reputation and difficulty recruiting experienced drivers into what many wrongly view as a “dead-end job”.

A senate committee is investigating the viability, safety and sustainability of the nation’s road transport sector, including a focus on how the sector will respond to the growth of global retail logistics giants and their delivery networks.

Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure.
Governments are looking for the right way to pay for catch-up infrastructure. CREDIT:ANDREW QUILTY

The Transport Workers Union is yet to make its submission but national secretary Michael Kaine said it would demand an increase in standards and safety at a time when the margins of smaller businesses were being squeezed, particularly as global delivery giants like Amazon expanded in Australia.

“Our submission will focus on lifting standards so we can save businesses, jobs and lives in our industry. The crisis needs to be addressed urgently: transport workers have by far the highest number of deaths for any industry while all road users are at risk because of the high proportion of people dying in truck crashes. Businesses are going bust every month,” he said.

Early submissions from business owners highlighted fundamental problems with training and recruitment in the sector, with no standard pathways to enter the sector.

Drivers require trucking licences according to state and vehicle requirements though there is currently no standard qualification beyond this to enter the industry.

“The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening,” chief executive of refrigerated transport company South West Express Mark Mazza said in his submission.

The fact that the industry is held in such low regard and dare I say ‘contempt’ by so many within society is disheartening.

South West Express chief executive, Mark Mazza

“Let’s face it, the industry is seen by many to be a dead-end job.”

Mr Mazza told the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age policymakers did not appreciate that the transport industry required highly skilled drivers with training beyond the operation of heavy vehicles.

“The biggest single issue is that there is a disconnect between the education system into our industry… There’s no standard regarding procedures and skill set, it’s a workplace-by-workplace shemozzle,” he said.

TWU secretary Michael Kaine said raising standards would be the focus of the union's submission on the future of the road transport sector.
TWU secretary Michael Kaine said raising standards would be the focus of the union’s submission on the future of the road transport sector. CREDIT:PAUL BRAVEN

The number of Australians working in Australia’s trucking industry is set to grow from 209,000 to 223,000 over the next five years, according to the Department of Jobs and Small Business.

The sector has a large proportion of older workers with the average age of an Australian truck driver 47 years old, and more than half the driving population is over 45.

The federal government has a number of roads initiatives including its Heavy Vehicle Safety and Productivity Program however this is focused on road and infrastructure improvements for safety, rather than driver training.

Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack was contacted for comment.

Other operators pointed to the overall low reputation of the sector as a barrier to attracting new talent.

“If the public starts viewing the Transport Industry as a fabulous and an essential part of society needs, it will then be more accepted on our roads and also as a chosen career path for future employment,” director of Dubbo business Tippings Transport, Sally Tipping wrote in her submission.

The inquiry is accepting submissions until October 17 with a plan to report to the government by April 2020.


Wanted: Human Skills

Making the difference between employee success and failure are skills that don’t appear on a resume, but can these “human skills” be taught?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that there are key skills that consistently contribute to employee success, no matter what the employee’s level. They are the softer skills – skills that make us better people and give us a high “get-it factor.”

They are skills like listening, empathy, creative thinking, focus, a solution orientation, accountability, stakeholder management, self-motivation and the ability to take risks and fail better, again and again.

These skills have always been sought, but are now more desirable than ever, as companies begin to ask every employee to behave as a leader.The market is craving soft skills because they are a necessary complement to the skyrocketing need for STEM experts. In fact, in a 2018 study by LinkedIn, 57% of leaders said “soft skills are more important than hard skills.”

Soft, or what we like to call “human skills,” elevate a person’s technical and professional experiences, allowing them to ramp up fast, and deliver meaningful insights and practical solutions so teams can make steady progress every single day.

“Hire for the skills you can’t teach.” It’s advice I received early on and have taken to heart my entire career.  The question is – are human skills teachable or are they innate?

The truth is, human skills exist within us all, but not everyone exhibits them to the extent necessary in the workplace. I believe these skills (and behaviors) can be taught, in the sense that they can be leveraged to potential — but only if leaders emphasize and reward the right behaviors.

Here are three ways to improve the impact of softer skills in the workplace:

1)     Set clear priorities and expectations about what success looks like. Are you measuring success based on what was achieved, or based on both what was achieved, and howit was achieved? Establish a clear set of behavioral expectations and priorities for your team.

2)     Incentivize individuals based on these priorities, as well as their business goals.Include measures for soft skills in your performance management process. Recognize and celebrate teams and individuals who are doing things like listening, showing empathy and creative thinking, collaborating across siloes, and taking calculated risks.

For example, a sports and entertainment company we work with at Notion Consulting used to host a ceremony where leaders awarded a person and team a “best failure” trophy each year. It was an opportunity to recognize people who took risks and failed spectacularly, using all their technical and “human” skills.

3)     Create a workplace where a balance between human and technical skills is the norm. Here are a few examples of how you can influence the growth of soft skills alongside technical ones:

·       To encourage teamwork and innovative thinking, create opportunities for individuals who wouldn’t normally cross paths to collaborate.

·       To build empathy, incorporate storytelling in your corporate messaging wherever possible.

·       To encourage a solution-oriented mindset, spend more time developing people who are generating ideas and solutions than on those who are consistently negative or finding fault without alternative suggestions.

·       To improve self-awareness, provide leadership development opportunities as part of your learning and development curriculum.

As the tight labor market continues, employers will continue to search deeply to find candidates who have the right combination of technical and “human” skills. The gaps in “getting it” may or may not be obvious when an employee is first hired, but they are critical for long-term career success.

With focused effort, you can amplify the human skills and behaviors that impact this success. Providing structure to your priorities, expectations, programs, policies, and experiences will help your people make the most of their hard and soft skills — and ultimately, provide lasting benefits to your employees, the community and your business.