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Preparing for jobs of the future when you don’t know what they are

Category: Option E Educating

Debbie Cosier

Submitted by Debbie Cosier on Thu 22/06/17 05:54
With bitcoin a reality and driverless cars just around the corner, we’re facing an unpredictable future jobs landscape. 
In the career stakes, formal education is starting to look a bit like a lottery. Which skills, vocations and career pathways will still exist by the time our current crop of Preps graduate from university and vocational courses? What can education institutions teach students that will prepare them for this unknown future?
A recent BAC2Business conference for Year 9–12 business students from Brisbane Adventist College answered some of these questions. In a day filled with panel experts, Q&A, framing activities and keynote speakers, BDO Executive Director Darren Stacey addressed a room full of students about how innovation and collaboration is shaping the future of banking and finance. 
He reported that applications for simple loans are now homogenised and programable. Mum and dad investments, and home, vehicle and small business applications are run through algorithms based on credit ratings and the ability to repay a loan combined with the bank’s ability to carry the loan. “Now, it’s all ‘Computer says yes’ or ‘Computer says no’,” says Stacey.

Jobs to stay away from

Stacey warned students to stay away from potential ‘dinosaur jobs’. 
“Beware of careers where the tasks are repetitive and a number of things must be produced in an hour; where there is human intervention with very low skill; where there is little opportunity to ‘value-add’; where face to face interaction is not required; where pay capacity is small; and where your job requires a high level of government intervention — just look at what has happened to the highly regulated taxi industry now that Uber has come along.”
As well as the risk of losing jobs to technology, cheaper production costs in developing countries means that lower-skilled, lower paying jobs can easily go overseas.

Jobs of the future

We live in an economy where entrepreneurship and high levels of creativity and interpersonal skills are vitally important for career success. Innovation drives jobs, the conditions for a prosperous society, community development and social change. 
Stacey advises students to pursue industries where there is room for growth and value to add, and to consider how they might fill gaps in the market. He pointed to the new economy where ‘bitcoin’ (cryptocurrency) allows individuals to transfer value remotely without hard currency. He gave the example of how people are now employed to create and manage online profiles for people who wish to protect their public reputation, or ‘clean up’ once they die by closing profiles, subscriptions and avatars. He talked about the possibilities in virtual reality, drones, farming and landscaping innovation to counter global warming, internet safety, and the Internet of Things, which is interconnection (via the internet and computing devices embedded in everyday objects) that allows you to monitor and control objects like your lights, oven or pool remotely.
Business and tech qualifications are useful for these career choices and for innovation of the future. However, so too are the interpersonal skills needed for the networking vital in creating business to business (B2B) links that precede successful innovation.  

Developing soft and hard skills

To have a career, you still need the right specific, teachable skills and theoretical knowledge. These are the pay-to-play ‘hard skills’ required in the practice of the job. No chartered accounting or software engineering firm is going to hire someone who hasn’t earned their degree these days (evidence of hard skills).
However, BAC2Business guest speakers also spoke about the ‘soft skills’ required in business, such as self-awareness, time management, emotional regulation, teamwork and effective communication. Employers will not consider a job applicant without getting a sense of who they are as a person. “These days, graduates are often asked to submit a video as part of the application process,” says Associate Professor of Accounting at QUT Stuart Tooley.

PHOTOS: Students' ‘soft skills’ were tested in the Marshmallow Challenge. Teams competed to create the tallest freestanding tower with 20 sticks of spaghetti, 100 cm of sticky tape, 100 cm of string, a pair of scissors and one marshmallow. 

BAC2Business — as usual 

"Our chuch has a long history of partnership with business — think of Sanitarium Health Food Company, Sydney Adventist Hospital, development and relief agency ADRA, education and aged care,” says Brisbane Adventist College Principal Leanne Entermann, who attended the BAC2Business conference run by Head of Business Philip Mead. “At Brisbane Adventist College, we think it is natural to pursue partnerships with local and international business entities so that our graduates leave here with 21st century skills that are globally recognised for the future but functionally supported by Adventist education principles and values. We’re interested in producing skilled business people who are ethical, trustworthy, innovative and authentic collaborators.”
AUTHOR: Debbie Cosier is a writer and former Enhanced Learning Coordinator at Brisbane Adventist College (

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