New report spells worrying future for young workers


New research has found the vast majority of young people are entering the workforce have skills that will be totally redundant in a decade’s time.Source:ThinkStock

Ahhhh, the perils of being young.

Housing unaffordability. Global warming. Student debt. But in case that wasn’t enough, here’s a fresh one to add to the bag: your job skills will probably be totally redundant in a decade’s time.

That, at least, is according to a new report commissioned by the Foundation for Young Australians.

The foundation’s research found that the vast majority of young people currently entering the workforce will be ill-equipped in a decade’s time, based on their current skillset.

The report argues that the economy is being short-changed by $4.5 billion a year, because young people are either not working or not working enough.

Jan Owen, CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians, said we need to quickly re-educate young people and equip them with skills they can actually use a decade from now.

While state governments have invested $91 billion in education and training every year, there are still massive numbers of young people not getting enough work.

“There’s a huge amount of money that goes into school education and then higher and further education, so it’s not really about the dollar figure … it’s more about what we’re using those funds for,” she told ABC radio. “Our research has shown that we need to quickly re-skill and start to think about how to prepare young people in the next decade for jobs that consistently and constantly change, and the skills and tasks and capabilities along that.”

So what skills are we talking about? Ms Owen said “soft skills” such as creativity, collaboration and characteristics are lacking in young people.

“What we’ve had until now across the globe — not just in Australia — is a knowledge and content-based education system at all levels, and we need to change that.”

She stressed that it’s not about discouraging people to study courses in disrupted industries like accounting or journalism, noting that “almost every single job will be disrupted” a decade from now.

She said it’s more about teaching students the skills that will sustainably help them.

“I think everybody is trying to understand and grapple with what they need to do differently. There are some great institutions doing great work, but there is no cohesive, overarching plan for students in Australia.

“Really, we’re asking for those good ideas to come together in a cohesive way.”

As we speak, nearly a third of young people in Australia are unemployed or underemployed, with those that enjoyed the mining boom in the last decade being hit the hardest.

The Foundation for Young Australians estimates that almost 900,000 young people will need “significant” reskilling between now and 2030.

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