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Why We Need to Plan Now for the Digital Work Future


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Drones and robots might be replacing some human workers on construction sites, but there’s growing opportunities for jobs in operating and repairing those technologies, according to a new policy paper by the Australian Information Industry Association.

Other expanding employment fields in the building business include 3D printer design engineers, and virtual reality specialists and trainers.

In the manufacturing sector, opportunities in maintenance, installation and troubleshooting jobs such as automation managers and artificial intelligence (AI) specialists are growing; and in mining, jobs for operators and fault technicians managing remote-controlled drills and autonomous vehicles at mining sites are expected to increase

The AIIA is Australia’s peak body representing tech and digital industry participants. It’s newly released,  “Skills for Today. Jobs for Tomorrow”, paper highlights the opportunities emerging with the rise of technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning.

It also analyses how they are impacting 10 key industry sectors including construction, manufacturing, health care and education, and the skills that need to be cultivated in the workforce to ensure people have the required levels of digital literacy.

“ICT and digital leaders must work proactively with governments and communities to develop practical strategies to build Australia’s digital literacy capabilities, to prevent social and economic dislocation,” Rob Fitzpatrick, AIIA CEO said.

“While history shows technology will add productivity and economic growth, our position paper is the start of what needs to be a broader conversation about developing an action plan to ensure Australians are adequately prepared for the jobs of the future and people are not left behind.” He said a “new narrative” is needed to show how technology will improve work and open up new roles.

“Alarmist views that mass unemployment is around the corner are neither helpful nor very realistic,” Mr Fitzpatrick said. “But we do need a clear strategy to prepare us for the future and address issues such as what skills will be required, how we can develop them, and how we support those workers who will be displaced.”

The paper stated that it is not only the skills to use technology that need to be cultivated in the future workforce, but also the science, technology, engineering and maths [STEM] skills that enable people to create technology.

In addition, “soft skills” such as people skills and applied knowledge are highlighted as equally important. “Many jobs of the future will have an emphasis on creativity, flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity, as well as social intelligence and personal resilience and agility,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.

“It’s vital that we educate people in both the hard skills, such as STEM, and the soft skills that will determine people’s ultimate success.”

The AIIA will be working with stakeholders including government and industry over the next 12 months to examine the issues raised in the paper and ensure progress is made in addressing them, he said. Priority policy issues identified by the AIIA include digital inclusion; workforce transition; skills, education and training; and industrial relations.

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