Should Snoopy Learn to Fly?

Millennials or Post-millennials undertaking education or about to enter the labour market need to develop a set of transferable ‘enterprise skills’ that they can carry with them from job to job. They must prepare now for a labour market that will no doubt be very different from that of their parents and grandparents. This is the key takeaway from two Australian reports released in late 2016 on preparing for the workplace of the future.

Both reports also consider the future trends in the labour market and the occupations that will decline as the century progresses. The Future of Work: Setting Kids Up For Success, published by NBN Co. in partnership with Regional Australia Institute, explores global and local trends in work to 2030. The report considers how young people can be best prepared to meet the challenges and opportunities offered by the changing landscape of work. The New Work Mindset, released by the Foundation for Young Australians, proposes that young people prepare a set of flexible skills to carry them across occupations in the ‘New Work Order.’

Setting Young People Up for Success



NBN and Regional Australia Institute contend that the jobs of the future will be:

  • High tech – jobs that involve a high level of understanding of technology or a high level of specialisation in a specific field;
  • High touch – jobs that require ‘hands on’ in either physical labour (think plumbing) or a high level of contact with people (think personal assistant); or
  • High care – jobs that require physical and interpersonal engagement with people, such as childcare, Aged Care, or fitness instruction.

Two core skill types are needed for the future job market, hard (specialist knowledge) and soft (people) skills. Young people are required to know how to program and interface with technology, but they also need to know how to communicate, collaborate, and think critically for success.’ (NBN, 2016, 10)

As a result of these labour market trends (which are already emerging – the NBN published a report in 2015 about the five ‘Super Connected’ occupation types that have emerged in Australia over the past fifteen years), young people will need to develop the ability to work flexibly, interact easily with technology, and communicate well with others. They will also need to have a high level of cross-cultural competence, and develop critical thinking skills. These skills, referred to in the report as the six C’s: “critical thinking, communication, collaboration, connectivity, creativity, and culture” are identified as “critical components of [the] 21st century” (10) – and echo the Institute for the Future’s ten Future Work Skills.

Job Clusters and the New Work Order

In a similar vein, after completing an analysis of thousands of job ads, the FYA argues the skills required by employers can be synthesised into seven ‘job clusters’:

  • The ‘Generators’ – jobs that require personal interaction, for example, sales, hospitality, retail, and entertainment. Includes Interpreters, Hotel Managers, and Sales Reps.
  • The ‘Artisans’ – jobs that require skills in manual tasks and making things, such as manufacturing, production, construction, or maintenance. Includes Machinery Operators, Plumbers, and Farm Workers.
  • The ‘Carers’ – jobs that care for people, including medical, personal support work, and other physical and mental health-related care jobs. Includes GPs, Social Workers, and Fitness Instructors.
  • The ‘Informers’ – jobs that provide educational, information or business related services. Includes teachers, HR advisors, and economists.
  • The ‘Co-ordinators’ – jobs that require repetitive, process or service and administrative tasks. Includes law clerks, bus drivers, and printers.
  • The ‘Designers’ – jobs that require knowledge of mathematics, science and design to create products or buildings. Includes building inspectors, geologists, and architects.
  • The ‘Technologists’ – jobs that require knowledge and use of digital technology. Includes software engineers and web designers.

Each job cluster, the report authors contend, requires that a person develop a set of transferable skills that can be carried across occupations within the same cluster. The report also found that some job clusters are more at risk from automation; specifically, the Artisans and the Co-ordinators. Other clusters, such as the Carers, the Informers, and the Technologists were most likely to experience demand into the future.

‘Our mindset needs to shift to reflect a more dynamic future of work where linear careers will be far less common and young people will need a portfolio of skills and capabilities, including career management skills to navigate the more complex world of work.’ (Jan Owen, CEO of FYA, 2016, 3)

FYA found that the skills that are transferable across all job clusters were: communication skills; digital literacy; problem solving; writing; creativity; and the ability to engage effectively with others. Young people should consider the demand for skills in the job clusters most likely to experience demand when preparing for the labour market. They should also focus on the development of Future Work Skills that are portable across all job clusters.

Fast Facts

  • Development of transferable ‘enterprise skills’ (also known as Future Work Skills or ‘The New Basics’ (FYA, 2016) should be encouraged in all educational settings now
  • The acquisition of these key transferable Future Work Skills are already more critical than the acquisition of technical skills – employers in 2015 were 20 per cent more likely to ask for these transferable enterprise skills than for technical skills (FYA, 2016)
  • These skills should be developed by all age groups, not only Post-Millennials – for adults no longer in school, consider acquiring these critical skills through a programme of intentional professional development, like FWSA’s Masterclasses
  • All workers and future workers should consider targeting the in-demand job clusters (Carers, Informers, and Technologists)
  • Workers in the job clusters expected to decline (the Artisans and Co-ordinators) should consider retraining or developing new skills to prepare for a decline in opportunities in these clusters
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