Growing reliance on computer technology is changing Australia’s workforce forever. Governments, industry and educators are jostling to position themselves for an uncertain future that will affect every sector of the economy. Is it possible for major players to develop harmonious long-term strategies for an economy that is undergoing rapid digital shift?
Australia has become a nation reliant on international interests to prop up our localised economy. The power of giant nations to fuel our economy is great, as is the converse negative effect when our economy is buffeted by changes overseas. Bolstering government coffers through mining, education and tourism was a short-term strategy that is already fracturing, and Australian educators are only just beginning to realise the monumental task involved in training the next generation if we are to avoid a rocky road ahead.
According to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), almost half of Australian jobs will be affected by “digital disruption” during the next 20 years. The report suggests the formation of a national summit to encourage more science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) expertise in Australia. The Australian Government, on the other hand, continues to dither regarding university research funding, and has been forced to reluctantly guarantee funding for the next two years.
Although the funding extension was welcomed by researchers, Dr Phil McFadden, former chief scientist of Geoscience Australia, believes the piecemeal funding won’t provide adequate security for local scientists who may be poached by overseas labs.
“Other countries value them highly…so when they’re offered a 10-year contract in Germany or France, and we’re offering them, ‘I don’t know if you’ll have a job tomorrow’, then they pack their bags and go,” Dr McFadden told the Guardian.
Then there are the new generation of “Millennials [the new generation] who prize access over ownership,” according to ZDNet. These younger entrepreneurs and digital rebels are keen to introduce start-ups with the potential to change the way we live and work, but are being hampered by red-tape introduced by Australian governments.
In his keynote presentation to the CeBIT IT conference this week, Dominic Perrottet, the New South Wales Minister for Finance, Services and Property stated that the tendency for governments to ban, over-regulate and over-tax the business models of ‘Millennials’ needs to end.
“This fundamentally misunderstands a profound shift in society around areas of ownership, sustainability, and mindful consumption,” said Mr Perrottet.
The digital shift is being felt by educators (online learning), employers/employees (around half of Australian jobs to be affected), researchers (the onus on short-term financial returns), and entrepreneurs (regulatory restrictions).
Australian educators have some mammoth tasks ahead in harmonising multi-generational interests, projecting future trends and providing appropriate resources and education pathways. It could be a bumpy ride, but if we play our cards right, Australia is poised to become a world leader in education and employment opportunities.