We might not know what future jobs will look like yet, but we do know they’ll involve STEM, so study up!
The world of work is changing rapidly. Advances in computing and automation mean that there are fewer routine manual jobs.
Instead, workplace tasks are increasingly creative, and involve decision-making and analysing and communicating information (Australian Jobs, 2018). STEM skills are a key requirement in this changing workplace, with research skills, logical thinking and analysis just a few of those increasingly in demand.
Research shows that STEM programs in schools have a greater impact – particularly on girls – when they focus on the the skills you need to succeed in STEM careers (Australian Industry Group, 2015).
In a survey conducted by Deloitte, employers named the most important skills as the ability to engage with technology, apply knowledge and communicate effectively. STEM skills were highly valued, with employers describing them as ‘fundamental’ and ‘core to businesses’.
‘STEM careers can be kind of daunting when you don’t know what people in these jobs really do,’ says Dr Jillian Kenny, who co-founded Power of Engineering workshops for secondary school students. Jillian is also industry engagement manager of the University of Melbourne’s Creating Innovative Engineering course.
Across every industry, modern business is driven by data – whether it’s understanding customer behaviour or uncovering financial insights. Data scientists and analysts are consistently reported to be one of the most in-demand professions
These skills are the least likely to be automated – and employers consistently rate interpersonal skills as their top employee requirement (Deloitte, 2014). Occupations that need these skills include educators, software and application programmers, hospitality staff and healthcare workers (Australian Jobs, 2018).
Companies are seeking out cyber security specialists with software engineering and networking skills, while user experience design underpins the development of apps. Web designers and front-end and back-end developers are also essential for online platforms
Nicky Ringland, an entrepreneur and computational linguist who co-founded coding education group Grok Learning, believes that computer science is critical in almost every area of employment, and could even lead to solving some of our biggest challenges, like curing cancer.
‘From robotic-assisted surgery, to statistical models for drug discovery, curing cancer is going to involve a lot of programming!’
Nicky says that we often don’t realise how much technology is involved in most careers.
‘If you want to work in nature and animal conservation, tracking animals, measuring habitat destruction, identifying risks to an ecosystem – that's all data analysis. Or entertainment – think about how Netflix decides which shows to produce, purchase or cancel, not to mention special effects, animation, sound and lots more behind the scenes.’
Meanwhile, Jillian believes that a skill that’s becoming increasingly important in the workplace is the ability to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset.
- Jillian Kenny
Jillian also nominates human skills such as curiosity, empathy and cultural awareness as being extremely important for STEM workers.
‘Greater communication, understanding and flexibility of thought facilitates workplace diversity, and ‘diversity is a key factor in breaking down barriers and sparking innovation,’ says Jillian.