AI, automation and technology; disruption and rapidly changing business environments
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University degrees don’t always lead to better job prospects.
Companies are increasingly embracing new digital technologies and automation tools, allowing professionals to focus more on strategic, innovative and customer-focused work. This trend is expected to drive emerging job opportunities and growth in IT, communications, finance, insurance and professional services.
Robert Half has put together its insights from placing graduates and shares five useful tips for those entering the workforce
1. Equip yourself with in-demand technical skills
According to the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide, digitisation is transforming roles and processes across a range of industries, including in the finance and accounting sector. Companies are looking for finance and accounting professionals who can demonstrate skills in areas like Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP/Oracle and are Chartered Accountant or Certified Practising Accountant accredited. In the financial services sector, the top skills in demand include IFRS 17 reporting, fund accounting and regulatory reporting. Experience comes from on-the-job training, so undertaking professional development programs and internships before finishing study can help foster this.
Within the IT industry, candidates with backgrounds in coding, especially Java, C#, C++, and in particular React are in high demand. At a minimum, new graduates should ensure they are able to read, work with, interpret and tell stories through data identifying and matching high appetite skills allows graduates to provide tangible value to an employer and as such distinguish themselves in the pool of competing applicants.
2. Soft skills matter
Alongside technical knowledge and digital prowess, emotional intelligence is becoming increasingly valued. Soft skills such as communication and negotiation, teamwork, creative problem solving and adaptability are now considered critical to career success, due to their role in influencing organisational stakeholders and making data-driven, strategic decisions.
Take, for example, the role of an accountant. Many businesses now have access to sophisticated automation software and AI, so they’re increasingly looking for trusted advisors that are excellent communicators, not just bookkeepers.
Following the Royal Banking Commission, financial institutions are under pressure to makeover their corporate culture and are looking to hire ethical talent with excellent personal skills.
To bolster their soft skills, new and upcoming graduates have a number of options available to compensate for the lack of professional experience. Internships, volunteering, temporary/part-time work, and adopting a ‘constant learning’ mindset can all help improve their employability in a thriving but highly competitive job market.
3. Prioritise professional development
With technology evolving faster than ever before, it is necessary for professionals to upskill regularly throughout their careers. In a skills-short labour market, public and private institutions alike recognise the need to train the incumbent workforce in high-demand skills, creating a new frontier of employable candidates that can then match and offset skill areas where industries are lacking.
Australian youth skills-focused programs include Microsoft’s National Skills Program, Qlik’s Data Literacy Program, and the Australian Government’s recently announced Skills Package for the VET sector.
Professionals entering the employment market would also benefit from choosing an employer who values upskilling and makes professional development and training a part of their ongoing activities. Training staff in both technical and soft skills is not only beneficial to the graduates’ careers, but it also encourages them to stay with the company.
4. Job for life is obsolete
While job-hopping has been traditionally frowned upon, many Australian employers have taken a more favourable attitude towards professionals who change jobs frequently.
While the broad and diverse skills that come with multiple jobs can help accelerate career advancement, it’s also recommended that Australian professionals who are still early in their career find a comfortable balance for themselves, as taking time to ‘grow into’ a role shows a loyalty that employers may reward with promotions and pay increases later on. Generally, however, young Australian professionals should not feel shy about seeking new opportunities if they feel they are lacking in their current workplace.
5. Consider temporary jobs
Graduates should also consider temporary or project work. Working on an interim basis can help people entering the employment market learn new skills and experience and build their professional network. Through these employment opportunities, they can also determine what type of company they’d like to work for over the long term. Many employers are receptive towards hiring temporary staff as they realise the benefits offered by having a mix of both contract and permanent staff, with 72% of CFOs surveyed for the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide saying that contract workers are a key component of their department’s long-term staffing strategy.
This positive turnaround is also having a direct impact on the career paths of temporary professionals as top performers are in turn being offered permanent positions by their employer if and when there’s an available opportunity.
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The future of work looks grim for many people. A recent study from Forresterestimated that 10% of U.S. jobs would be automated this year, and another from McKinsey estimates that close to half of all U.S. jobs may be automated in the next decade.
The jobs that are likely to be automated are repetitive and routine. They range from reading X-rays (human radiologists may soon have much more limited roles), to truck driving, to stocking a warehouse. While much has been written about the sorts of jobs that are likely to be eliminated, another perspective that has not been examined in as much detail is to ask not which jobs will be eliminated but rather which aspects of surviving jobs will be replaced by machines.
For example, consider the job of being a physician: It is clear that diagnosing illnesses will soon (if not already) be accomplished better by machines than humans. Machine learning is spectacularly effective when data sets are available for training and testing, which is the case for a wide range of diseases and ailments. However, what about sitting with a family to discuss treatment options? This is far less likely to be automated in the foreseeable future.
Preparing the next generation of leaders.
Now consider a profession at the other end of the status spectrum: barista. In San Francisco, Cafe X has replaced all baristas with industrial robot arms, which entertain customers with their antics as they make hot beverages. However, even Cafe X employs a human, who shows customers how to use the technology to order their drinks and troubleshoots problems that arise with the robot barista.
Contrast being a barista with being a bartender. People often strike up a conversation with the bartender. This job clearly is about more than just mixing drinks. Like the physician, we can easily parse this job into two components: the repetitive and routine one (actually mixing and serving the drinks) and the more interactive, unpredictable one that involves listening to and talking with customers.
After reflecting on characteristics of numerous jobs and professions, two non-routine kinds of work seem to me to be particularly common, and difficult to automate:
First, emotion. Emotion plays an important role in human communication (think about that physician sitting with the family, or that bartender interacting with customers). It is critically involved in virtually all forms of nonverbal communication and in empathy. But more than that, it is also plays a role in helping us to prioritize what we do, for example helping us decide what needs to be attended to right now as opposed to later in the evening. Emotion is not only complex and nuanced, it also interacts with many of our decision processes. The functioning of emotion has proven challenging to understand scientifically (although there has been progress), and is difficult to build into an automated system.
Second, context. Humans can easily take context into account when making decisions or having interactions with others. Context is particularly interesting because it is open ended — for instance, every time there’s a news story, it changes the context (large or small) in which we operate. Moreover, changes in context (e.g., the election of a maverick President) can change not just how factors interact with each other, but can introduce new factors and reconfigure the organization of factors in fundamental ways. This is a problem for machine learning, which operates on data sets that by definition were created previously, in a different context. Thus, taking context into account (as a congenial bartender can do effortlessly) is a challenge for automation.
Our ability to manage and utilize emotion and to take into account the effects of context are key ingredients of critical thinking, creative problem solving, effective communication, adaptive learning, and good judgment. It has proven very difficult to program machines to emulate such human knowledge and skills, and it is not clear when (or whether) today’s fledgling efforts to do so will bear fruit.
And in fact, these are the very skills that employers across industries consistently report seeking in job candidates. For example, in one survey, 93% of employers reported that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.” In addition, employers seek candidates who have other sorts of “soft skills,” such as being able to learn adaptively, to make good decisions and to work well with others. These sought-after abilities, of course, fit perfectly with the sorts of things that people can do well, but are and will continue to be difficult to automate.
All of this suggests that our educational systems should concentrate not simply on how people interact with technology (e.g., by teaching students to code), but also how they can do the things that technology will not be doing soon. This is a new approach to characterizing the underlying nature of “soft skills,” which are probably misnamed: These are the skills that are hardest to understand and systematize, and the skills that give — and will continue to give —humans an edge over robots.
Here are the skills that will get you ready for the future workforce. Photo: Getty
There’s a lot of uncertainty about the extent of artificial intelligence on the jobs of tomorrow. Without bringing out a crystal ball, here are three areas that are already experiencing a significant rise in jobs with seemingly boundless opportunities for growth across multiple industries.
1. Risk management
The revelations from the Hayne Royal Commission into the banking and financial sector reveal Australians have been appallingly let down when it comes to governance.
If nothing else, it reflects the need to upskill to meet more complex compliance demands and hone the ability to identify and respond to key risks in your business.
The new Monash Business School Master of Regulation and Compliance is designed in conjunction with regulation, compliance and business law practitioners, so you’ll graduate expert in regulation and compliance across sectors such as financial services, sustainability and environmental regulation and corporate regulation, as well as the emerging area of artificial intelligence and technology.
But the important thing to remember about this course is that you don’t have to be a lawyer. It’s highly practical, with real-life case studies, but also explores compliance functions from an ethical and practical governance perspective.
2. Project management
Australia’s infrastructure pipeline faces an increasingly critical skills shortage, according to a 2019 audit report from Infrastructure Australia. It expressed concern that the country is failing to achieve best-practice in planning, funding and delivering infrastructure projects.
“Projects are getting larger and increasingly complex, and will require new approaches. How the public sector makes decisions, handles procurement, selects contract models and handles risk will have significant bearing on the functionality and efficiency of our infrastructure,” the report says.
Monash Business School’s Master of Project Management covers areas such as as project and business finance, leadership, managerial problem-solving and decision-making, to infrastructure project and policy evaluation, negotiation strategy and skills, enterprise and IT systems.
It has also been designed as an interdisciplinary course across the Monash faculties of Business, Engineering and IT.
This sort of career move would suit someone upskilling, expanding their skill set or looking for a dynamic new direction.
3. Big data
In its ‘2019 Jobs Rated’ report, the US jobs site CareerCast reported a 30 per cent increase in demand for statisticians or data scientists and this is also an area of rapid demand across Australia with corporate, government and non-profit sectors.
Monash Business School’s new Master of Business Analytics is designed to help you better understand the world around you by analysing and interpreting data. You will also learn statistical thinking, probabilistic modelling and computational techniques and how to express data through web apps and interactive graphics.
If you’re already in data science or working as a statistician (ranked as among the top jobs in the world by CareerCast due to the demand for that skill-set), this course will really deepen your knowledge. It starts with introductions to concepts such as machine learning and data analysis and goes into intensive specialist areas such as high dimensional data analysis and even Bayesian time series econometrics.
This is the sort of career move that would most suit people who have backgrounds in engineering, computer science and mathematics and who are looking to work in government, education and the non-profit sector. Best of all, it is taught by some of the world’s leading econometricians.
The mining industry’s peak body has predicted 20,767 more workers will be needed in the next five years and called on government and business to “learn our lessons from the past” to prevent a skills shortage.
A report by the Australian Resources and Energy Group AMMA says action is needed to avoid a repeat of challenges faced during the mining boom, when employers were forced to offer high salaries and generous benefits as they struggled to lure workers.
“We must learn our lessons from the past and be better at industry workforce planning, nurturing the skills pipeline, facilitating inter-sector labour mobility, and avoiding projects cannibalising each other for critical trades and semi-skilled roles,” the report, to be released on Tuesday, says.
The new jobs expected to be created by 2024 include 8660 mining plant operators; 2847 heavy diesel fitters; 4110 supervisors and other white-collar roles; 4180 engineers, technicians, geologists and related roles; and 970 other trades, such as electrical, mechanical and maintenance workers.
The forecast draws on official data relating to the 57 mining projects – worth about $41 billion – in the “committed” or “likely to proceed” phases, and takes into account the impact of automation and expected mine closures.
It includes 5714 mining jobs in Queensland, where the issue of coal mining jobs was pivotal at the May federal election, but attributes only 800 to the Adani mine. Coal mines make up nine of the 57 projects nationally (16 per cent), seven of which are either thermal coal or a mix of thermal and coking.
AMMA chief executive Steve Knott said Australia’s mining industry was “facing new workforce demand at levels not seen since the previous investment and construction ‘boom’ “.
“While demand across the next four years will be far steadier than the unprecedented growth we saw in 2005-12, it is clear that securing the pipeline of skills to support mining project growth to 2024 will be a significant challenge,” he said. “We must avoid a scenario where nationally significant mining projects are delayed by skills shortages, or competing for engineers, trades and skilled operators with the $100 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Australia’s development pipeline.”
The jobs forecast does not include 153 mining projects at the feasibility stage considered “possible” to proceed, “many of which are advanced in planning and awaiting final investment decision”.
Thousands of positions in the mining industry are on offer with 20,000 new jobs available over the next two years.
Employment and Skills Minister Michaelia Cash said the Morrison government was “acutely aware of the workforce requirements in the Australian economy” and was addressing them through “major reforms” to the vocational education and training (VET) sector.
The government committed $535 million in the federal budget to overhaul the VET system, including a regional apprenticeship wage subsidy trial and a review of the National Skills Needs List.
Senator Cash said while the Coalition was responding to “structural issues” within the VET system, business needed to play its part.
“Employers know better than anyone what their workforce requirements will be in the future, so it is just as important for them to effectively plan for, and skill up, the workforce they need,” she said. “Workforce planning is not simply a problem for government.”
The government is also reviewing the skilled migrant visa list.