Tag Archives: high-value jobs

How can governments assist businesses

Keys to success in a disruptive environment

Governments promote and invest in science and technology to drive productivity for growth and jobs in the longer term. In this context, digital technologies have been the most profound enablers of the modern era.

Many of the impacts of digital technologies have been positive, replacing unsafe or low value work with the creation of adjacent higher-value jobs. However, many firms have failed to understand the impact of digital technologies on their core business. In most cases, businesses have been “disrupted” by new products and services that customers prefer.

Industries that are most ripe for disruption are those that have neglected to invest in the relationship with their customer base. This is why major corporates are investing in digital transformation strategies – to improve service and build customer loyalty in a society where a greater set of options are increasingly available to the consumer through digital services.

At the same time, governments are seeking to engage with citizens in more effective ways. Great economic gains can be made by better coordination of public services and this is typically achieved through the use of digital services.

How can governments assist businesses to prepare for change?

Traditionally, government innovation policies have focused on inputs (science and technology) and government levers (infrastructure, skills, regulation), rather than improving awareness that innovation is a dynamic feedback process driven by the customer and enabled by technology.

Repositioning innovation as a strategic response to a change in customers needs (or wants) will be important in raising the innovation performance and resilience of all businesses across the economy. 

A heightened level of understanding of how customer demand will drive uptake of technology will also be important at the individual level as machine learning and artificial intelligence start to impact highly skilled professions. The proposition from some thought leaders in our community – that jobs in the economy may undergo major shifts every 5–10 years – is plausible. We need to prepare our workforce with the capability for such a scenario, even if we are not certain when it may arise.

Central to such preparation is lifting the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) proficiency of our society. This is why Federal and State Governments have a particular focus on STEM education.

In parallel, governments are acutely aware that rapid technological change can have social and ethical implications that need to be understood and managed as best we can. There is no question that the “future of work” will be a hot topic in 2017 and one that will require the input of a broad section of the community.

Dr Amanda Caples

Lead Scientist, Victoria

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STEM skills

Building STEM skills

There has been a lot of talk about the need to get more students studying STEM skills –science, technology, engineering and mathematics – to equip them for the jobs of tomorrow. For Australia to have the right mix of high value jobs and industries to maintain or improve our quality of life, we need more people with the digital and data-related skills that these jobs require.

A natural assumption would be that the reason we need to encourage students to study science and other STEM skills is to boost our research clout – the cohort of technically trained people within Australia’s university and publicly funded research laboratories. While of course Australia’s research capabilities are a pivotal element of our innovation ecosystem, this misses the point.

In my view, the areas where we desperately need more graduates with STEM skills include industry, government, politics and the entrepreneurial domain.

The ability to use complex data to make evidence-based decisions has never been more critical for decision-making – whether that be in the corporate boardroom, the executive suite, or the cabinet room. Most of the global challenges we face – from climate change to cyber crime – require a sophisticated understanding of STEM and basic STEM skills.

Technology offers solutions to many emerging problems. But experience from the nuclear debate to genetically modified crops tells us that when communities aren’t equipped with a good understanding of the scientific process and complexities behind these issues, it is extraordinarily difficult to secure the societal license required to introduce transformative technological solutions.

But the kicker is entrepreneurship – where young people have some of the best opportunities to harness rapidly emerging technological disruption to create high-value jobs. There is no question that many of these opportunities come from the STEM disciplines. We need to create opportunities where young people studying STEM skills are exposed to entrepreneurial ecosystems, have the chance to see first–hand what it takes and give it a go.

“We can’t afford to wait for more girls to select these traditionally male-dominated careers – we need to be proactive in creating pathways and incentives for girls to enter these fields.”

There are some STEM fields where we need to focus serious effort on getting more girls to engage. In particular, IT and engineering. Both areas are so critical to Australia’s future that we simply can’t afford to be building on half our talent base.

We can’t afford to wait for more girls to select these traditionally male-dominated careers. We need to be proactive in creating pathways and incentives for girls to enter these fields. We also need to provide much better systems and cultures to retain our capable women in STEM and research.

One simple thing we can do is profile and celebrate those female role models who are currently making an impact and are the top of their game in these STEM fields. The recently launched SAGE initiative will be pivotal in helping address the dire under-representation of women at the most senior levels in Australia’s universities and research organisations.

It’s worth noting that research, development, innovation and discovery are all about building from what’s already known. They’re about asking new questions and connecting existing knowledge. This is, at its heart, a creative process. We can’t forget that one of the critical elements in nurturing our most outstanding future engineers and scientists lies in supporting children to engage in the creative arts alongside STEM.

Tanya Monro

Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation, University of South Australia

Read next: Stephanie Borgman, People Program Specialist at Google Australia/NZ, on how internships offer mutual opportunities for students and businesses.

People and careers: Meet graduates and postgraduates who’ve paved brilliant, cross-disciplinary careers here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com

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More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Australian Innovation Thought Leadership Series here.