One of the biggest changes to our society post-Covid-19 will be the workforce and workplace. While the labour market had been steadily changing, the cognitive, behavioural and technical skills needed post the pandemic has put a new lens on people and the skills needed now and into the future.
Our special guests from the University of Sydney, Professor John Buchanan
, Head of the Discipline of Business Analytics and Dr Hayley Fisher
Academic Director – Post-Bachelor and Continuing Education, study, interpret and analyse these changes, giving valuable insights and highlighting the critical need for lifelong learning.
As for right now, Professor Buchanan fears unemployment – and worse still underemployment – is going to be a worsening and ongoing problem for some time post-Covid. ABS figures reveal it is worse than commonly believed and the real problem is often misunderstood when unemployment numbers are reported.
In fact, many unemployed and under employed don’t show up in the data. Delving deeper into statistics reveals some 32 per cent of the available Australian workforce is either unemployed or underemployed – that is they would like to work more hours.
Since Covid-19 required a closing down, 17 per cent of the workforce have had their hours cut back – that is over 1.2 million workers affected - and some predictions are that many will never get those working hours reinstated.
These figures are understandably concerning and highlight major challenges for government and business alike, particularly when the Jobkeeper program ends in September. This situation is further complicated by the indication from many employers that there is a continuing and even worsening skills shortage, particularly in construction, building, manufacturing, and other trades.
Further, the ABS data shows there is a 16 per cent drop in corporate capital expenditure making the need for enhanced government and business collaboration, along with TAFE and Universities important in order to address this problem.
The NSW TAFE system, according to Professor Buchanan, is going to take time to fix. But it is essential that TAFE and the university sector collaborate with government and business to train and produce the type of graduate ready to meet the needs of business and industry. The cost of training and apprenticeships and internships needs to be shared between government and business so that businesses can afford to take the risk of training a new employee or apprentice without having to bear the full cost if that employee then leaves.
As Dr Fisher sees it, there are three major challenges to overcoming the future workforce challenges:
- rapid development of artificial intelligence making many manual labour jobs redundant,
- effects of climate change on the economy
- an ageing workforce that means we are not easily able to replace retiring workers
Shifting from vocational education to tertiary education, Dr Fisher sees that Universities will need to teach using an interdisciplinary model to equip their students with a wider range of adaptable knowledge and skills to meet these challenges.
Education and training will need to become a life-long pursuit as people try to keep abreast of technology and changing skills sets. As a result, Sydney University now works much closer with employers to understand what skills are required in the changing work environment.
Interestingly, despite having to do online learning recently, Sydney University has decided that online is not the optimal model and that where the inherent value in face to face learning combined with the benefits to learning of social interaction, converge make it the best learning model.
They stressed that the biggest change needed to accommodate the future workplace changes is around rostering and scheduling, allowing more flexible work hours. This will help our stretched transport to cope better with less peak hour crowding and congestion.
So now is the time to do things differently. Whether you are planning or managing a workforce or simply participating ,we need a new, more flexible and adaptable model of work where work spans a broader spectrum of hours and places through rostering and where we continue to learn something new every day.
Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum with Professor John Buchanan and Dr Hayley Fisher on 19 May 2020.
Topics: workforce, sydney, post covid-19, economic recovery, NSW, education, training
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Media contact: David Peters 0472 678 535
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