Rapid advances in technology are fundamentally changing the nature of work – from the jobs that exist to the way work is done. Research by the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) estimates almost 40 per cent of jobs that exist today have a moderate to high likelihood of disappearing in the next 10 to 15 years. On the flip slide, there will also be jobs that don’t yet exist. All of which makes preparing for the future of work critical.

Understandably, when many people think about the skills needed in the future, they think about coding, software engineering and cyber security. What you might not immediately consider are some of the human skills that will be important. We’ll be living in a software and social future where a combined STEM and social sciences background will be crucial ingredients for success. Think communication, complex problem solving, creativity, collaboration and emotional intelligence.

For example, building the world’s best cloud or AI technology will be important. But so will be finding the best way to collaborate – by leveraging multidisciplinary teams and partnerships, within companies or across companies, to drive new revenue and market opportunities for the businesses they are a part of. In the same vein, being able to analyse data will be important, but so too will the ability to interpret it, make informed assumptions and be able to communicate it in a way that is easily understood and applicable to customer requirements.

We’re committed to building a future-ready workforce and helping equip the next generation with the skills they’ll need. As part of this, we recently partnered with the University of Technology Sydney to give students insight into the disruptions facing businesses across industries and challenge them to test and explore how an organisation could build an inclusive and future-ready workforce.

Split into three groups, 150 students from the Faculty of Transdisciplinary Innovation were asked to outline how they would build an engaged future workforce, considering career opportunity and growth, diversity and inclusion, and the role education partnerships would play.

UTS Student Challenge
Claudia Pilon-Summons tells the Telstra panel how her team worked together, admitting that doing a group Nutbush showed the value of play and helped the team work better together.

In considering career opportunity and growth, the first group focused on career strategies and recommended a skills platform that would facilitate lateral moves into other areas of an organisation beyond team boundaries. Part of their consideration was also creating a safe environment where it would be okay to try something new like moving into a totally different role and failing in doing so.

The second group looked at workplace diversity and inclusion. A big part of their focus was the role of inclusive language in improving culture, such as referring to ‘balanced’ teams over ‘diverse’ teams; ‘mentors’ over ‘managers’ – and they pitched algorithmic hot desking to reshuffle social groups and enable natural diversity.

UTS Student Challenge
Aston presents division two’s approach to maintaining diversity in an organisation undergoing great change.

The challenge’s third group looked at how businesses could partner with education institutions to attract and retain diverse talent. Part of their proposal included immersing students and employees in transdisciplinary teams that focused on rotations and projects that build breadth of experience to develop in-demand skills.

UTS Student Challenge
Phoebe Wynn-Jones and Luke Castaldi led the group in an exercise demonstrating the process of self-organisation showing that while the vision may be clear, the path to get there isn’t.

The students used creative thinking, innovation and complex problem-solving – capabilities that are highly valued now and will be into in the future.

Thank you to the students from UTS for stepping up to the challenge. Your recommendations showed the importance of embracing technology, making diversity and inclusion central to business thinking, and understanding social trends and employee needs to adapt and be future-ready.

Considering challenges like this will help future Australian business leaders prepare for disruptions, and understand how those disruptions will flow on to change an organisation, its workplace culture and employee expectations.

We look forward to continuing to partner with a range of education institutions – from schools to vocational education providers and universities – to build the skills needed for the future and a strong talent pipeline for Australia.