How can we prepare young people for the future of work?

By Jeanette Pope

This week some 389,000 Victorian students will head back to high school, around 70,000 into their last year. How can we prepare them for the world of work after school?

Work is changing and young people’s careers are more complex. Estimates suggest they might have up to thirteen jobs across four different industries over their careers. Their choices are also changing. Some work is being automated (drivers, lawyers, even diagnosis of x-rays – anything routine). New jobs are being created that we might not have even heard of (global mobility consultant, social media manager, sustainability officer, user experience designer). More than half our current preschool students will work in jobs that don’t exist yet.

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What should we be advising young people to do, when we might not understand change fully ourselves?

  1. First, they need to finish high school. Work is increasingly high-skilled and finishing school is still related to better and higher paid work. We can help by ensuring education is engaging and relevant to them.
  2. Second, they need the right skills for new jobs. The best skills are the generic ones they can take across jobs (digital skills, communication, project management, creativity, working with others). These should be learned at school. But we can also help by encouraging involvement in volunteering, gaming, clubs, hackathons, community action, politics. Young people need to understand what they like doing, what they are good at, and how these can be used to create meaningful careers.
  3. Finally, and to overcome the main reason young people are disadvantaged in labour markets, they need work experience (and job search, job application and interviewing skills, etc). We can help by releasing opportunities in our communities – no matter how small – to help them learn what work and jobs are like, build their networks, and give them experience for their CVs. Be part of our campaign: www.100ways.com.au.

There will be a lot of debate about the changes to work over the next decade, but helping young people is not hard, even with change. And it’s everyone’s business.

Jeanette Pope is a freelancer and expert on young people and the future of work. She will be helping out at CRLLEN and writing some articles for us to stimulate discussion around these issues.

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