Tuesday, 30 August, 2016


HRF released new research into the Future of Hunter Jobs at a lunch, held at Fort Scratchley Function Centre in August, which also featured three expert speakers on the future of work in Australia.

Guest speaker and Canberra-based consultant Sue Beitz cited US research indicating that 47 per cent of all jobs will be lost to automation, with more losses in sales, services, production and administration, whereas jobs in personal services and health care are at low risk of being automated.

Sue said that people are increasingly engaging online across a wide range of professional services, for example there were more enrolments in Harvard’s online courses in one year than the total number over its 377-year history. The most jobs growth over the last 20 years has been in the higher-skilled areas, with enterprise skills (critical thinking, creativity, presentation and digital literacy) the least likely to be automated and in demand in equal parts with technical skills for the jobs of the future.

“We may not so much change jobs as change the way we work,” she said. “For example, an executive assistant’s role 10 years ago was about taking appointments and answering the phone, but now you need Google research skills and an ability to engage via social media.”

Our Future of Jobs panelists at the lunch, Professor Bill Mitchell (centre), Director of the University of Newcastle’s Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), and Forsythes Recruitment Director Geoff Crews, answered questions about the future workforce.

Professor Mitchell exploded some myths about the Australian labour market, pointing to massive underemployment.

“Despite what we’ve been told, there has been zero employment growth in Australia over the past 24 to 30 months,” he told HRF’s 130-strong audience. “The participation rate is well down as workers have given up looking for a job and left the workforce. If we added them back in, the Hunter’s unemployment rate would be at 8% instead of the 5.3% that is reported.”

Prof. Mitchell called on governments to stimulate jobs growth and innovation by overcoming their aversion to deficits. He saw opportunities for jobs growth in the Hunter in the renewable energies sector and in human services, particularly in aged care and education.

Geoff Crews said that technology and demographic changes were creating workforce issues in the Hunter.

“Change is sector-driven and follows macro-industry changes, and the ageing population is also creating change.”

He saw opportunities in the shared economy, with business like AirBnB, and thought that while technology was creating change in all areas, it was freeing up human resources to take up other opportunities.

When asked what direction he would pursue if he was a 16-year old in the Hunter, Geoff said that he would educate himself about technology by joining things like coding ‘dojos’, as featured on a recent Four Corners program.

View the Future of Hunter Jobs research and lunch presentations.