Australia’s Most Employable Industries Post-pandemic
Even before COVID-19 ravaged the world and shut down economies, Australia was already leaning into a cavernous skills shortage, growing larger by the year. Crucial industries like healthcare and construction were already scavenging from a shrinking pool of skilled workers, and digitalisation was becoming an inescapable reality.
Post-pandemic, Australia’s healthcare, construction and manufacturing industries are set to explode, according to a PwC analysis. In each of these industries, digital capabilities will be crucial for employees to remain proficient.
As these industries scramble to fill crucial skill gaps left by turnover, ageing workforces and halted migration, young people will be able to slot into the growing number of roles available to find secure employment. However, new workers can expect to enter a workforce that is already becoming radically different from what exists today.
Innovation is becoming a top priority, and the utilisation of digital tools and technologies will become commonplace. Workers will not just need technical skills relevant to their industry – they will need transferable digital skills to keep up with the pace of change in each of these industries.
In healthcare, construction and manufacturing, some roles will become automated, some will become augmented, and some will be created to fill the skill gaps of an entirely new future of work.
Understanding Our Booming Industries
Already, Australia has seen a redefined healthcare system emerge from the COVID-19 crisis. It was braced for high-demand in an uncertain environment, with hospitals tripling ICU capacity and swiftly implementing telehealth for essential services.
Specific sectors within healthcare have been harder hit by the effects of COVID-19, such as aged care, private hospitals and elective surgery services. Yet, the industry remains incredibly resilient, and the Australian government anticipates it will continue adding jobs at a rate of 15% per year.
Healthcare will be tackling two main challenges in the coming years:
- Employee shortages due to an ageing workforce and retention issues.
- Upskilling workers with digital and technological capabilities to cater for telehealth, AI and robotics as emerging industry norms.
PwC predicts that future healthcare workers will find themselves in a workplace vastly different to the one we see now. They will need to find a balance between using technologies like robotics and AI and providing the crucial ‘human touch’ patients need.
The healthcare workers of the future will need:
- The ability to collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams
- The digital IQ to utilise the support of robotics and AI
- Problem-solving capabilities
- A range of human-centric soft skills
The biggest worker shortage will be seen in nursing, with the country lacking approximately 120,000 nurses by 2030. There will be a significant need to fill this gap.
shortage of nurses by 2030
Construction has been one of the few industries to continue rumbling on through the pandemic. While many other industries were brought to their knees, PM Scott Morrison identified building and construction as an economic priority.
The deepest impact the pandemic has had – and will likely continue to have – on the industry is “lower spending per customer” according to a McKinsey Insights report. However, the construction industry houses a great many sectors within it. While residential construction will likely see a decrease in activity, there will be no shortage of jobs to be completed in other parts of the industry.
Larger infrastructure projects will continue to require skilled workers: for example, the Australian transport infrastructure sector is poised to grow at a rate of 4.9% per year for the next ten years. Overall, the annual growth rate of the industry is expected to be 2.4% over the next five years.
What there will be a shortage of, however, is labour. Even before considering that construction trades apprenticeships have declined by 21.5% since 2016, the industry is also facing the issue of a skills replacement gap. The industry will need to replace larger numbers of high skilled workers in the coming years as the workforce turns over, but there are doubts the current apprenticeship system can produce the numbers required.
The top five jobs in demand will be:
- Architectural, Building and Surveying Technicians
- Contract, Program and Project Administrators
- Civil Engineering Professionals
- Carpenters and Joiners
Although the construction industry hasn’t experienced digitalisation to the extent of other industries yet, it is looming. Over the next 15 years, 1.16 million construction jobs will be at risk of automation, while another 30% are expected to be augmented by technology.
This digitally-driven shift means construction workers will require upskilling, training and retraining to accommodate new roles, tools and technologies.
While the pandemic has seen many construction jobs lost and apprenticeship contracts put on hold, the government’s response has been a big budget spend on the industry:
- $7.5 billion on transport infrastructure (out of an $11 billion total infrastructure spend)
- $688 million HomeBuilder Scheme
- $1.2 billion Supporting Apprentices and Trainees wage subsidy
These things make up a three-pronged approach for creating more jobs by; creating more infrastructure, encouraging consumer spending on construction, and enabling more apprentices to enter the workforce to fill crucial skill gaps.
annual growth rate of the construction industry over the next five years
Post-COVID, the Australian Government has pledged to re-evaluate supply chains and put a greater focus on niche manufacturing within the country.
The industry is now looking to embrace innovation and increase competitiveness in a global market. A side-effect of this will be more jobs for Australians, on top of the 1.3 million the industry already employs.
Australia was previously a huge manufacturer of a vast array of products, but since its peak in the 1960s, we’ve seen most of it – from cars, to clothing – sent off-shore. The country now imports almost everything, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a stark light on the vulnerable position our reliance on overseas manufacturers leaves us in.
The global manufacturing industry had slowly been adopting Industry 4.0 practices – connectivity, advanced analytics, automation, and advanced-manufacturing technologies – before the pandemic had even hit. But the road to adopting new tech in Australia has been a confusing one for many companies. A lack of knowledge and technology has reportedly held back 4.6% of manufacturers surveyed in the 2016 ABS Business Characteristics Survey. These crucial skills gaps have inhibited manufacturers’ ability to develop or introduce new products or services.
But now, with added financial and strategic support from the government, the manufacturing industry is set to boom – with more jobs, more innovation and more digitalisation, as it prepares to compete in a global market.
The 2020-21 Federal Budget includes a cash injection of $1.5 billion over four years into the industry, for the Modern Manufacturing Strategy. This includes:
- The Modern Manufacturing Initiative: $1.3 billion strategically funnelled into “projects that help manufacturers to scale up and create jobs”.
- Manufacturing Modernisation Fund: receives a $52.8 million expansion to help individual companies within priority sectors.
- Supply Chain Resilience Initiative: $107.2 million will go to projects that address an “identified supply chain vulnerability”.
The government has also invested $48.3 million to support around 200 projects, which are expected to create 2,600 jobs. Overall, the future of Australian manufacturing will see manufacturers scale up, compete internationally and create more jobs.
Future talent for the industry will need to have strong digital capabilities. According to PwC, over the next 15 years, 33% of manufacturing jobs will become augmented by technology, requiring a balance of human and machine resources. Meanwhile, 30% of jobs (or approximately 640,000) will become fully automated.
of manufacturing jobs will be augmented by technology in the next 15 years
School leavers, and university and TAFE graduates are significantly more at risk of falling behind in the current climate. They have been the demographic hardest hit by pandemic-related unemployment. However, as we look towards Australia’s future of work, this demographic is also innately apt to assimilate into a digital workforce. Utilising the digital tools and technologies that have shaped their youth, they will likely be the ones to push innovation and digitalisation in all industries.
In the industries of healthcare, construction and manufacturing, jobs will be lost to automation, but many more will be created. The shortage of skilled workers in these areas will remain a concern for years to come, which ensures roles for those with the necessary qualifications and skills.
The future of work in Australian industries will be vastly different from what we know today, but it will offer unique rewards, opportunities and challenges for those willing to step up. By adopting a lifelong learning mindset and upskilling for digital and data, individuals will be able to find their feet in a radically new workforce.
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