Pictured: Charlie with Ben Kolaitis at the City of Melbourne Library's Makerspace.  

Blog by Charlie Jones

It can be pretty terrifying to hear or read about some of the trends in the future of work. For example, some of the things we hear about are that many young people are being educated and trained for jobs that won’t exist in the future, and that the rise of automation and artificial intelligence making redundant certain jobs that humans have been doing for centuries.

The New Work Order series of research by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has been influential in informing Peel Bright Minds’ understanding of the changes in the future of work, which in turn informed our vision and objectives.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Melbourne and attend a Masterclass workshop run by FYA on their research and how to apply it when working with young people in the future of work context. Having followed their research closely over the last few years, there was a bit of low-key fan-girling going on for me (#justnerdythings) and I was especially looking forward to learning some practical insights in how to apply the research.

If you’re interested to learn more you should definitely read FYA’s reports, but I will sum up some key points about the research that I learned about during the workshop.

1.       There are four different groups of skills that we all need to thrive in the future of work

The first group is foundational skills like literacy and numeracy – these remain as important as ever because without them, it’s difficult for us to communicate effectively and to build other, deeper skills.

The second group is technical skills which are the specific skills or deep knowledge that you need for a given job. At the masterclass they gave examples that if you are a doctor, you will of course still need knowledge of anatomy, medical procedures and regulations. I think it’s really important to emphasise that we still need these technical skills and deep knowledge. There can be a tendency to assume that deep knowledge is less important because of the growing attention on things like creativity and problem solving as being important for young people to have, but we still need these more traditional skillsets.

The third group is enterprise skills – which includes a host of important skills such as digital literacy, critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, presentation skills, financial literacy and communication skills amongst others. This group of skills is quite similar to what we are referring to when we promote the ‘E’ for Entrepreneurship in ESTEAM.

The final group of skills relates to career management. This includes things like interview skills, developing resumes and promoting your skills online. With young people projected to work in many different industries, for more different employers, and in more of a flexible environment throughout their career– this is more important than ever.

If you’re anything like me and the thought of updating your resume or LinkedIn profile and promoting yourself fills you with dread, you can head in to see the terrific team at the Peel Jobs and Skills Centre.

2.       Journeys from education to work are getting longer for young people (but there’s hope)

Nationally, the FYA found that on average it is taking young people 2.6 years to transition from full time education to full time employment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all young people aren’t working at all, but that many of them are under-employed (working less than 35 hours per week).

Encouragingly, the FYA research also identifies some ‘accelerators’ that were associated with shorter transition times.

Some of the key accelerators to full time employment that I took away from the workshop were:

  • Enterprise skills education (e.g. digital literacy, teamwork, communication, presentation skills, creativity, etc)
  • 5,000 hours of relevant paid employment. This can be at an entry level in an employment cluster that is relevant to the career a young person is pursuing.

    Thinking back to when I was studying at uni, I worked in cafes, was self employed as a tutor of high school students and managed a band. I didn’t think that these jobs were relevant to the career I wanted as an environmental scientist. Looking back, when I applied for graduate jobs I definitely under-sold the skills I’d been developing in these jobs such as teamwork, project management, marketing and communicating.
  • An optimistic mindset. This strikes a chord with me personally and with our focus with Peel Bright Minds. We want to help people in our community have an optimistic mindset that if they love learning and engage themselves in as many different learning opportunities that they can, they will be well positioned in the future of work.

    Some of the key aspects of an optimistic mindset that they mentioned in the workshop included viewing skills as a currency for success (as opposed to qualifications alone); thinking about building a lifetime of careers rather than hoping for the career of a lifetime; thinking about clusters of industries that you’re interested in, rather than specific industries alone (which are more vulnerable to change). 

Putting it all into practice

A practical tool presented to us at the workshop was an ‘enterprise skills passport’. This has pages for all the different types of enterprise skills and can be used as a tool for young people to use to track what skills they’re developing and demonstrating in all aspects of their life.

We also heard from a panel of high school students who had participated in the $20 boss program – an FYA program that is designed around enterprise education. Students who participate are given $20 of start-up capital – they can go it alone or pool it with others to start a business and aim to make it into a profitable enterprise. The students were inspiring in the way they talked about how they had experienced and overcome challenges and failures to succeed in the program.

If you’re interested to learn more about these (or if you’re at a school and would like to participate in $20 boss), visit their website.

Visiting a Melbourne Makerspace

While I was in Melbourne I was also fortunate to visit a magnificent Makerspace at one of the City of Melbourne’s local libraries. I met Ben Kolaitis there, who is a real guru of Makerspaces, having set them up in Australia as well as in several countries overseas. He was very generous in sharing his time and expertise with me.

If you’re not familiar with Makerspaces, they are places with resources for tinkering, creating and learning. The one I visited included several different types of 3D printers, laser cutters, electronics kits, sewing machines and more! There was even a scanning device that can scan small objects and then create 3D images of them that you can then input into 3D printing software. The space was abuzz with young creators working on some printing and laser cutting projects.

Ben shared his expertise about how the libraries are actively involving many different community groups in the spaces. For example, he looks up meetups in online communities based on particular interest groups, invites them in and helps them to design and run workshops in the space. They’ve found this effective in diversifying the user base for the space and equipment.  

Another important learning from Ben was the importance of having passionate and skilled people needed to run the Makerspace and to provide support to community members. The space is free to access and most consumables are free too - community members just need to complete a mandatory safety induction. Ben and his team have found that while workshops are effective for some basic topics (such as making a particular item), providing one on one support to users of the space to work on their individual projects as they need it has been the most effective at helping people learn.

Check out their website for more information about the City of Melbourne’s libraries and Makerspaces.

If you’re interested to check out a local Makerspace, I’d recommend checking out the City of Mandurah’s Falcon e-Library and Community Centre

What can you do to help young people?

If you’re a young person, I hope you feel that your community is behind you in trying to help you prepare for the future of work. Learn as much as you can by following your areas of interest in education, employment, volunteering and your hobbies – and be conscious as you go of what skills you are developing.

For those of you further along already in their careers, some of the takeaways about how we might all help young people include:

  • Role model lifelong learning and an attitude towards skills as currency, especially in those enterprise skills areas. Show young people that your career and life is a journey of continuous improvement and learning.
  • If you’re in the position to – employ a young person/people. You’ll be helping them get the 5,000 hours of relevant paid employment that will help accelerate them towards a great lifetime of careers!
  • Help young people in your life to think about and communicate the skills that they’re learning in all parts of their lives including education, employment, volunteering and hobbies.