‘Four Cs’ the key to skills demanded by our shifting workforce

‘Four Cs’ the key to skills demanded by our shifting workforce

‘Four Cs’ the key to skills demanded by our shifting workforce

By National Skills Commissioner Adam Boyton

Where will the jobs of the future be, and what core skills might underpin those jobs? Answering those questions is a key challenge in front of the National Skills Commission. To do that we identify the big-picture forces and trends that will shape the future, then draw out what these mean for skills and jobs.

These big trends include a shift to higher-skilled jobs and services industries, the resilience of non-routine, “cognitive” jobs in the face of AI and automation, the importance of soft skills, and the opportunities created by technology.

One of the starkest findings in our State of Australia’s Skills 2021 report is that around half of the new jobs to be created over the next five years will require a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. Further, nine out of 10 new jobs will require some form of post-secondary education. That makes education and training an important part of the supply of skills we’ll need in coming years.

Our employment projections also show that in the next five years the most growth in jobs will be in four services sectors: healthcare and social assistance; professional, scientific and technical services; accommodation and food services, and; education and training. These will account for around 64 per cent of jobs to be created over the next half decade.

We also know demographic change will shape our economy, workforce, jobs and skills. As the population ages, demand for workers in the healthcare sector is likely to increase. That makes care a key skill of the future.

It’s also a fair bet AI, automation and the ongoing digital revolution aren’t going away any time soon. That big trend has several implications for our future jobs. The first is that the jobs least likely to be automated are the ones machines find difficult to do. These are often jobs that aren’t routine and require higher-level thinking skills. That makes “cognitive” jobs and skills a likely key theme of the future.

While many people worry about automation and technology taking our jobs, the reverse is also true. Many jobs are being created in the technology space and the demand for digital skills is higher than ever. Over the next five years, the commission expects the number of software and applications programmers to jump by 46,100, or 30 per cent.

When looking at the specific skills of people at work, we find computing and digital-related skills are among the fastest growing. We also see digital skills emerging in a range of occupations. Many of the jobs that use cognitive and computing skills exist in traditional sectors – think about the frontiers of modern construction or the cutting-edge technology in modern manufacturing.

Our analysis also finds that jobs requiring very high-level oral and written communication skills are less likely to be automated. This finding, coupled with the importance of communication skills across a wide range of jobs, sits behind our view that communication will be another core skill of the future.

So, while we don’t know every twist and turn the future holds, these “four Cs” – care, cognitive, communication and computing – summarise the skills likely to be in strong demand.

Some of these skills, such as care, relate to specific jobs. Others, like computing and communication, will be a part of most, if not all, jobs. Of course, there will be a wide range of other jobs and skills needed. We can be fairly certain these jobs and skills will increasingly require post-secondary education.

However, it’s important to remember that change isn’t new and many of these big-picture forces and trends also aren’t new. The rate of change is faster, but change has been a feature of the economy and jobs market for years now.

While past performance is no guarantee of future success, the ability of our jobs market to respond and reshape itself over the past few decades provides grounds for optimism for the future.