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Whether you’re the optimist that looks to the future of work augmented by automation, robots and Artificial Intelligence as the panacea for opportunity, or subscribe to the more pessimistic view that automation will disrupt and displace jobs and the people in them, both require essentially the same response: the need to build the human and workforce capabilities and skills required to exist in our modern digital age.

While history shows that technology has and continues to be a significant driver of job creation, this does not mean we can afford to be complacent this time round. Unlike previous industrial revolutions in which education, training and labour market systems adapted over time to advances in technology, this current ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ commands a more urgent response.

Preparing for the jobs of tomorrow means that we need to start building the skills we will need today. With the aim of facilitating the development of appropriate action in response to the impact of emerging technologies on the existing labour market, it is vital that we:

  1. Identify the technologies impacting Australia’s core industries and the new jobs and roles that will emerge to serve them. We must explore the job opportunities that have emerged or are on the horizon, which jobs may be lost and where transition planning is required.
  2. Identify the skill requirements for these jobs, including the evolution from existing skills sets and the increasing importance of digital literacy.
  3. Surface the priority policy issues relevant to planning and preparing for the workforce of tomorrow:
  • Digital inclusion
  • Transition arrangements as jobs of the future emerge
  • Skills, education and training requirements
  • The impact of changes in technology on existing industrial relations frameworks

A clear strategy is needed with regards to specific policy responses to issues, such as the adjustment and re-employment of workers who are displaced; concerns about digital exclusion; and more broadly, an understanding of what skills will be required and how they can be developed.

ICT and digital leaders must work proactively with governments and communities to develop practical strategies to build Australia’s digital literacy capabilities, and to prevent social and economic dislocation. While history shows technology will add productivity and economic growth, there needs to be a broader conversation about developing an action plan to ensure Australians are adequately prepared for the jobs of the future and people are not left behind.

Make sure you’re part of this important conversation and register for the AIIA Navigating Technology and Jobs of the Future Summit in Canberra, 22 March. Secure your early bird discount by 7 February!