Wednesday, 24 August, 2016

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The Hunter’s economy and workforce are rapidly changing, as jobs shift away from the traditional high value-add manufacturing and mining sectors, to the service sector and knowledge-based industries.

The change is driven by globalisation, emerging technologies and digital disruption, industry servitisation, population ageing and the economic shift to Asia. How can you prepare for an uncertain future? What trends are likely to affect your business and what skills will you need to succeed?

Hunter Research Foundation (HRF) recently partnered with Keolis Downer to examine these issues in the Future of Hunter Jobs publication, released last week.

We reviewed the Hunter’s six major employment sectors – Health Care, Education and Training, Hospitality, Business Services, Retail and Construction – to identify growth opportunities and potential skills shortages. Jobs growth is predicted across all six sectors, with Health Care, Business Services, Education and Hospitality being the biggest sources of new employment. The net impact on the economy will be offset by continued decline in jobs in traditional industry sectors and an increase in part-time employment.

The regional workforce will require increased skill levels. We have heard a lot about the importance of STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) with these playing a more important role in both new and traditional industries. However, recent research from the Foundation for Young Australians highlighted the growing demand for ‘enterprise skills’. Their analysis of 4.2 million job ads showed that presentation skills, creativity, critical thinking and digital literacy were all growing strongly as essential requirements for young Australians entering the workforce. These so-called ‘soft skills’ are now core to the market place and the challenge will be for young Australians to gain both technical and enterprise skills within an increasingly part-time or ‘portfolio’ workforce.

Delivering services to the market will also challenge the Hunter’s traditional link between place of work and place of residence. Residential development in urban-fringe greenfield areas, along with higher-density re-development in inner-city Newcastle and Charlestown, mean people may not be close to work opportunities. Distributed service delivery, such as aged care, connecting services to international visitors, and exporting services will all require a future-oriented polycentric design for both transport infrastructure, residential and business developments, and the roll-out of high-speed internet.

If we are to take advantage of the opportunities likely to arise, we need a strong regional growth plan, backed by government, industry and the community. It will need to provide transport nodes and technology infrastructure to enable efficient delivery of services within the region and competitive access to external markets. It will also need to position the Hunter to become a ‘magnet’ for new skills, innovative global technologies and entrepreneurship.

What can you do now in your own business to take advantage of these opportunities? Collaborate, innovate, train and educate. Be courageous and plan for a more connected, globally-competitive future.

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