Date posted: 21/11/2017 3 min read

Businesses want problem solvers and communicators – is the education system delivering?

Geraldine Magarey, Leader of Policy and Thought Leadership, discusses how education is changing with the old idea of a linear career, and a job for life, being replaced by the concept of a portfolio of skills.

In Brief

  • Technology will relieve humans of low-productivity administrative jobs and manual labour
  • But a place will still exist for humans at work
  • Businesses rate problem solving and communication as very important

Businesses that look at talent through a diverse lens will not suffer from skills shortages – the skills are out there; you just need to know where to look.

No one has the definitive answer to what the workplace will look like in 10 or 15 years’ time although some sensible predictions are possible. Digital technology is already changing the way we work, and the current buzz around artificial intelligence is leading to predictions of job losses as well as the creation of completely new ones. Fundamentally whatever form the technology takes, it will relieve humans of low-productivity administrative jobs and manual labour.

But a place will still exist for humans at work. The Future of Talent: Opportunities Unlimited, a new future[inc] paper from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) has identified the most important future skills for businesses. Significantly, the paper separates the old-fashioned concept of a linear career and a job for life, from a portfolio of skills that  future employees can sell to different businesses over the course of their working life.

Of the Australian and New Zealand businesses surveyed, nearly 75 per cent rated problem solving and communication as very important to the future of their business. Next in line at 62 per cent was adaptability and agility, followed closely by resilience, collaboration and the ability to build relationships quickly.

Skills rated by business as important for the future

Collaboration and problem solving are very human skills, more difficult for technology to replicate. Adaptability, resilience and agility are also human skills that are essential in a world of constant change and uncertainty. How will businesses obtain these skills, particularly as they appear to lack faith in the education sector’s response to the changing needs of the marketplace?

The Future of Talent paper showed that three in five employers do not believe the education system is doing a satisfactory job of preparing people for organisations like theirs. Accordingly these critics fill the perceived gaps by offering their people on-the-job training, mentoring and coaching as a way of organically developing the required skills within their organisations.  Yet even these development practices have their critics and shortcomings. 

Education has taken some steps to meet the needs of business in this rapidly changing environment, but more must be done. 

Leading universities are introducing new courses, curriculums and entry criteria with a view to better preparing students for the workforce of the future. Part of that motivation is coming from the increased competition in this market as providers look to collaborate and partner with businesses.

The University of Auckland’s Business School curriculum is shifting to include data analytics, digital marketing and communications, social media, business modelling, change management, innovation and entrepreneurship. All aimed at helping its students prepare for an uncertain future by developing their creativity, emotional intelligence, adaptability, communication skills, team work and cross-cultural understanding.

Similarly the University of Sydney’s Business School added core “inclusive leadership” units to its undergraduate Bachelor of Commerce degree program to reflect its commitment to “leadership for good”.

Although there is still clearly a role for learning institutions, the CA ANZ paper revealed a level of dissatisfaction by businesses in the ability of formal schooling – from high school to tertiary institutions – to develop the skills needed for the future. Clearly, work is required to better align the educational experience with the needs of individuals and business both now and in the future.

The Future of Talent: Opportunities Unlimited

Read about how adaptability, resilience and agility are essential in a world of constant change and uncertainty.

Read more

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