Future challenges for young people

This section examines: How the world of work is changing How young people can be enterprising How young people can lead social action How to connect young people with the region

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The Overview

Young people will move into a changing world of work

Work is changing

Work in Australia has been changing over the past decades and is likely to continue to change into the future. Change brings opportunity for young people but only if we invest to ensure they can also overcome the challenges of change. The three challenges young people are most likely to encounter in navigating the new world of work are:

  • navigating a broader range of (potentially new) occupations and training options
  • the increasingly global context of work
  • increasing flexibility and insecurity

FYA commissioned AlphaBeta to undertake some work for Unlimited Potential that describes three economic forces that will change work in the future: automation, globalisation, and collaboration.  This will impact on young people in arrange of ways including that currently 60 per cent of Australian students are being trained for occupations where at least two thirds of jobs will be automated in coming years.  The report highlights policy options that could maximize the opportunities and minimize the risks.


Young people will be working in different jobs in different industries

The international competition bought by globalisation has seen a change in the types of industries offering the most jobs in Australia. The Australian economy has lost production jobs (manufacturing and agriculture) and gained jobs in higher skilled knowledge and service-based industries (professional and technical services, education and training, health, finance, etc).


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Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu (2014) has identified the industries with the most potential to lift Australia’s prosperity in the future. While some industries (e.g. mining, agriculture) are high value industries with fewer jobs, others will generate new occupations into the future. Download the infographic.

  • Current waves: Mining
  • The Fantastic Five: Agribusiness, gas, tourism, international education, wealth management
  • Growth pockets: ICT, finance, clean coal, gas transport, food processing, disaster management and preparedness, next gen solar, next gen nuclear, medical research, food processing, community and personal care, retirement living and leisure, reskilling an ageing workforce, residential aged care, preventative health and wellness, digital delivery of health, private school and parcel delivery.

The opportunity of new industries and occupations (and an increased array of training options for them) brings with it the challenge of careers being more complex to navigate for young people than in the past (Mann et al 2013).

See experts talk about how young people will have to navigate a new world of work

Young people will need to understand the global context of work, particularly in relation to Asia

While Australia’s economy is now interconnected globally, it is its’ connection to Asia in particular that has increased. This is because the Asian economies are transforming and growing with unprecedented speed. There are around 2 billion people in the Asian region. As it develops, a large middle class is emerging. Representing 28% of the global middle class in 2009 (0.56 billion), this group is projected to be 54% by 2020 (1.74 billion) and 66% by 2030 (3.23 billion) (Kharas 2010).
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Australia’s exports are now linked to this growing middle class’s demand for goods and services, such as education, food, healthcare and tourism. This has increased Australia’s links with the region and 78% of Australia’s total export earnings in 2014 came from Asian markets (DFAT 2015). Australia is currently a global leader in five significant exports (AusTrade 2014).

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The size of Australia’s competitive advantage in Asian markets can be demonstrated with tourism. In 2013, China was the number one tourism source market in the world, with US$129 billion spent – a tenfold increase since 2000 (UWTO 2014). In comparison, the second and third largest spenders, the United States and Germany, spent around US$86 billion each (UWTO 2014). Over 2013-14 the greatest increases in international visitors to Australia were from Malaysia (15%), China (14%), Singapore (13%), Thailand (11%), Hong Kong (10%) and India (10%) (TRA 2014). Over the 2010-20 period, Asia is expected to contribute more than half of the growth in international visitation to Australia, with 42% expected to come from China (TTF 2014). By 2022-23 international arrivals are forecast to reach 9.3 million (TRA 2014).

The opportunity of growing Asian markets brings with it the challenge of Australia fostering and maintaining connections with the region.

Work will be more flexible and insecure

The final challenge for young people is that they are moving into a world of work that is more flexible, where they are less likely to be in full-time work, and more likely to have casual jobs (see Section 3). Based on analysis of Australian labour market statistics it has been estimated school leavers today will have 17 jobs and 5 careers over their lifetime (McCrindle 2014). There has been an increase in non-standard or alternative working arrangements such as self-employment, temporary/agency work, seasonal work, independent contracting, fixed-term contracts and on-call work (Marler et al 2003; Moreland 2005; Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work 2012). The Business Council of Australia (2012) predicts that alternative working arrangements will become more important in the future.


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The opportunity of flexibility brings with it the potential of young people becoming trapped in less well paid or “stepping stone” labour markets and being unable to plan long-term or apply for loans for housing etc.

See experts talk about how work will be more flexible in the future

Young people will need skills, global understanding and work experience

To make the most of a world of work that is more complex, more globally connected, and more precarious, FYA argues young people will need three things:

1. Skills that will help them be enterprising: To navigate work in the future young people will need more than the technical skills related to their chosen field. They will need generic skills that make them more enterprising, such as communication, project management, financial literacy, digital literacy and the abilities to critically assess information, be creative and innovate (Casner-Lotto & Barrington 2006; Loader 2011; Kahn et al 2012; ACARA 2013). Enterprise skills are transferrable across different jobs and are a more powerful predictor of long-term job success and performance than technical knowledge (Moreland 2005; OECD 2012; OECD 2013). It has been estimated that around eighty percent of long-term job success depends on these skills, and only twenty percent on technical knowledge (see Watts & Watts 2008 and Klaus 2010 in IYF 2013).



2. Asia engagement: To capitalise on the opportunities being generated by the growth of the Asian economies, young people (and their communities, educational institutions, businesses and governments) will need to be creating and maintaining links with Asia. Barriers to connection have been reported as: poor skills in languages other than English; a lack of cross cultural understanding; and a lack of diversity in our key institutions (including in the management of our companies) that reduces rapport, cross cultural understanding, languages, and curiosity (Karpin 1995). Currently, only a small minority of Australian students undertake studies with content focus on Asia (AEF 2012). Only 18% of Australian school students study an Asian language, decreasing to fewer than 6% by Year 12 (Kirby 2012). Only 300 non-Chinese background students are currently studying Chinese at Year 12, Indonesian is losing 10 000 students a year, Japanese has declined 20 percent since 2005, and Korean is taught in very few schools (Kirby 2012). By contrast, most students in other developed countries are leaving schooling with two or more languages (Kirby 2012). Australia does have some strengths for Asia engagement: two million Australians (around one in ten) were born in Asia, two to three million visit Asia each year, and three quarters of international students in Australia are Asian (DFAT 2014).

Watch a video about the FYA Young People Without Borders Start Year Program


3. Careers education and work experience: To navigate more complex careers pathways, young people will also need to learn careers management skills and get work experience through their schooling. The International Labour Office argues there are three (supply side) factors that cause young people to be disadvantaged in labour markets (ILO 2010 in Mann 2012).  These are that they:

  • lack job-seeking insights
  • have less work experience, and
  • have fewer suitable networks to navigate work (ILO 2010 in Mann 2012).

Both employers and young people have reported they are not confident that schools are equipping students with the skills, experience and networks they need for work.  One study has shown that, while 72% of education providers were confident their graduates were prepared, only 45% of young people and 42% of employers agreed (Mourshed et al undated).  Both employers and education institutions see the need to be in partnership to provide more work experience and enterprise skills in schools (Casner-Lotto & Barrington 2006; Shah & Nair 2011; CCIQ 2011; CBI 2012; CBI 2013; IYF 2013).

Read more about FYA’s Worlds of Work initiative providing careers education and work experience to high school students

Read the Worlds of Work Evaluation Report to see how WOW made an impact in 2014

See what we know about how Australian young people are currently faring in the transition from school to work in Section 3

  1. Young people are a vital resource
  2. Future challenges for young people
  3. The transition from school to work
  4. Contributing to and leading change