Building a future that works for our young people

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If you’ve ever had an extended period out of the workforce, for whatever reason, you’ll know that a job isn’t just a source of income. It can also be a source of self-esteem, of social interaction and of connection. While a job isn’t the only thing that defines us, it does wield substantial influence over our day-to-day satisfaction and our sense of worth and purpose.

A recent report from the Foundation for Young Australians has raised alarm bells about the future of work for young people. It has highlighted that young workers are likely to experience insufficient opportunities for work experience, a mismatch between work and education, a lack of career management skills and scant entry-level jobs.

It’s concerning stuff—there’s no doubt that our young people are on the frontline of a changing jobs landscape, which ushers in a need for creative and flexible approaches to work by employers and young people alike.

Redesigning the workforce

Change in the workforce is being driven by a number of influences such as accelerating connectivity, new talent models, robotics, AI, and the gig economy. In Australia, we are seeing a number of businesses focusing on consolidation of roles and headcount and reducing FTE. Big businesses are looking to streamline and optimise efficiencies, which often results in fewer opportunities for younger people looking to break into an industry.

The report recommends that the educational and jobs sectors invest in individual coping mechanisms and expanding the “entrepreneurial skills base” of young workers. It’s undoubtedly important for young people to understand the new ways that jobs are being designed, and learn to be adaptable for future growth, but in reality, teaching coping mechanisms and entrepreneurial skills isn’t enough—the government and the educational sector need to be taking steps to future-proof the job sector and ensure more entry-level opportunities for young people. On the flipside, our young people also need to embrace the evolving (and highly competitive) future of work and be proactive and strategic in their approach to their career.

Shifting mindsets, creative approaches

Both employers and young people can take steps to ensure the future of work is bright.

For employers, there is the opportunity to augment the graduate intake and provide opportunities for more new graduates to enter the workforce. It’s important to recognise the value of a ‘green’ hire—capability can be taught, but hunger and enthusiasm make a new graduate easy to mold into your culture, and go a long way to making them a loyal, long-standing member of your team.

It’s also about applying innovative approaches to problems of supply and demand. In some industries, knowledge evolves so quickly that new graduates can come out of university and find that their skillset is already obsolete. One of my senior digital executives is spearheading an initiative to create six-month projects/internships in the service design/customer experience area of their business for people without experience to get a foothold in the industry. This opens up cutting edge roles to young, passionate candidates who get to learn on the job and gain valuable experience, and ensures that my client is left with a skilled workforce to choose from at the end of the project.

For young people, it’s crucial to be creative and adaptable in your approach to your career. Young Australians should learn to leverage opportunities, get in front of as many people as they can, and be willing to identify career pathways that might seem left field. They need to be prepared to volunteer, take on internships and try a range of different avenues before settling on something. It takes time to build a career and find that ‘dream job’—in my own experience, the job you end up loving isn’t always the one you had your sights set on when you started out.

Amplifying existing opportunities

It’s also important to be strategic when looking at employment. While the future of work is undoubtedly changing and jobs are being created and redesigned at an astounding rate, there are still a large number of industries with current jobs shortages. Department of Employment statistics show that Australia has shortages of sonographers, audiologists and midwives. On top of this, there is also a short supply of professionals such as architects, surveyors and veterinarians, as well as a variety of mechanical, electrical and technical trades. All viable career options for young people to explore.

There’s no one ‘right’ answer or approach to improving the future of work for young people.

My best piece of advice? Be flexible, keep an open mind and leverage your networks—in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, ‘if you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.’


Dimitra Fourtzis

Practice Director: Digital





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