Preparing young people for the 'New Work Order'

Young people will be the hardest hit under a new future of work, as economy and labour markets undergo significant changes over the coming decades.  The most recent report from the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) highlights how the way we work will be increasingly affected by automation, globalisation and collaboration.

Every day I have the opportunity to meet, work with and get inspired by this incredible generation of young people who are thinking creatively about the future and taking action to solve some of the world’s biggest problems. It’s what the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) is all about – we exist to back the next generation of young people so they can rethink the world and create a better future. 

We're about young people like Aussie entrepreneur, Alexie Sellar, who is tackling climate change by providing microfinance to India’s urban-poor so they can buy solar lighting and reduce their reliance on kerosene lamps. There’s also engineers Jillian Kenny, Felicity Furey and Claire Bennett who are rewriting maths textbooks to get young people, particularly girls, hooked and ready for a career in STEM fields. This list could go on for pages. 

Image of Alexie Sellar courtesy of FYA

These examples of entrepreneurship and innovation are, however, not widespread. Right now we are failing to provide generations of young people with the skills and capability to thrive. This is a global tragedy – and one that threatens our collective future, economic and social prosperity.

FYA’s recent report The New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for jobs of the future, not the past paints a clear picture of the key economic drivers which are transforming the world of work: automation, globalisation and collaboration.

Ever smarter machines are performing human tasks, our workforce is becoming more global, and fewer people are doing work in a traditional environment with one employer.

For young people in particular, these changes will have a huge impact. Over 60 per cent of Australian students are currently studying or training for occupations where the vast majority of jobs will be radically affected by automation. Many of the jobs they are studying for could vanish in 10–15 years’ time. In short, the robots really are coming and we need to design the new world of work.

Our children may be able to operate a smart-phone with ease, but what they need to learn is how to build it.

In five years’ time, over 50 per cent of jobs will require significant digital skills and yet our young people are not learning these in schools. Our children may be able to operate a smart phone with ease, but what they need to learn is how to build it.

Just 10 years from now the working life of a 15 year old will look like a “portfolio” of jobs including self-employment, engagement in the collaborative economy and working with other individual employers – often at the same time. 

Image courtesy of FYA

This news comes at a time when young people are already facing great uncertainty with around 500 million across the globe either underemployed or unemployed. They are a generation more in debt and unable to access affordable home ownership.

As alarming as this all sounds, this story doesn’t need to end badly. There will be many exciting new opportunities in the future world of work. What we are not doing is comprehensively investing in preparing and backing the next generation to create the kind of world they want to live in. Central to this will be equipping young people to become job builders and creators, not just job seekers.

Every student will need an enterprise education that begins early in primary school and builds consistently throughout high school and is provided in ways that young people want to learn: through experience, immersion and with peers.

Programs like FYA’s $20 Boss high school entrepreneurship program, our Adappt app-building bootcamp co-designed with Samsung, and our work backing young social entrepreneurs, demonstrate the value of enterprise learning. They also show how these skills can be delivered in ways young people will engage with.

These initiatives exist in many countries around the world, however they are rarely embedded into core curriculum and integrated into learning approaches.

Image courtesy of FYA

Whether we like it or not, we are in the midst of the most significant disruption to the world of work since the industrial revolution. It is essential we provide young people, their teachers and parents, with accurate information about where future jobs will exist and the skills to craft and navigate multiple careers. Beyond this we need to engage students, schools, industry in co-designing opportunities in and outside the classroom to avoid the serious mismatch in training and jobs which currently exists.

Whether we like it or not we are in the midst of the most significant disruption to the world of work since the industrial revolution. 

Our policy choices today will determine whether young people are ready to take on the challenges of the future. We must act to ensure future generations can thrive in the New Work Order.

We need a shared sense of both urgency and ambition for our young people. The alternative: a lost generation, billions of dollars of wasted talent, disenfranchisement and loss of purpose and hope, is unthinkable. If we’re serious about equipping young people for the best future possible, we need to invest right now. 

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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