July 5, 2016

Future Proof

Regardless of who wins the Federal election, the major issue facing Australians is the future of work.

There are startling and credible predictions that more than five million Australian jobs will simply disappear in the next 15 years, as a result of technology. That’s 40% of the jobs that exist in Australia today.

What do you want to be when you grow up? 

Answering that question is only going to get harder as many of the jobs our kids will do haven’t been invented yet. And if parents believe that steering their kids towards “safe” professions like accountancy will guarantee them a job, they’re in for a shock.

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence in particular are actually solving jobs that we thought traditionally were very highly qualified jobs, people like lawyers and doctors and accountants and bankers… It’s eating out the middle of the job market.”Robotics Pioneer

There will be winners and losers in some surprising areas as more and more jobs become automated or operated by intelligent computers.

“What’s happening is the same thing that happened to blue collar work in the seventies, eighties and nineties is going to happen to white collar work…People need to start understanding the impact that it’s going to have on them.” Management Consultant

It’s good news for baristas and personal trainers, but not for real estate agents. And the days of long haul truck drivers may be numbered.

“I think the first thing on the agenda is really going to be driving autonomously between Sydney and Melbourne on the highway. It’s not hard to imagine and indeed the technology exists for dedicating a lane and saying this is going to be for autonomous trucks.” Robotics Pioneer

The loss of these jobs will be challenging for the existing workforce as there may simply not be enough jobs to go round. But the greater fear is that we’re not preparing our kids for work in this technological age. Schools and universities are churning out students with qualifications for jobs that won’t exist, instead of training them for the ones that will be created.

“We’ve had incredible education in this country, but there is no-one that genuinely really thinks it’s fit for purpose now and into the future… Australia is, right now, not prepared.” Youth Advocate

We meet the kids giving up their weekends to learn the computer coding skills they say they’re not being taught at school.

“I believe that coding is the next layer of literacy.” Coding Teacher

And explore the schools who believe they’re unlocking the future with innovative teaching methods and an emphasis on the so-called STEM skills, maths and science.

Many are arguing that we must act now to change the way we educate our kids or risk them sleep walking into a world they won’t be equipped for.

“We could start working with 12 year olds today. By the time they’ve done six years of high school and they’re 18, we could genuinely have changed their trajectory if we focussed on some of these education changes that need to happen and set them up and Australia up for a very different future.” Youth Advocate

Future Proof, reported by Geoff Thompson and presented by Sarah Ferguson, goes to air on Monday 4th July at 8.30pm EDT. It is replayed on Tuesday 5th July at 10.00am and Wednesday 6th at 11pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm AEST, ABC iview and at abc.net.au/4corners.