Industry 4.0 and the Future of Work: Australia’s Jobs of Tomorrow

Claudia Reiners
February 17, 2021

Industry 4.0 and the Future of Work: Australia’s Jobs of Tomorrow

e8909df59ff66e1f48b0cd1d72eab922?s=50&d=mm&r=g Candlefox

We are experiencing a period of profound change. Jobs that have existed for years are being displaced and new occupations are being created at an exponential rate.

The rise of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) are threatening the shelf life of skillsets. It’s clear that emerging technologies pose significant implications for learners, organisations and training providers. To succeed in tomorrow’s economy, our workforce must work in sync with ‘thinking machines’.

Economic uncertainty and pandemic-induced lockdowns sped up the adoption of automation and AI. The freefall of our local and global labour markets are leaving many workers concerned about displacement.

As economies begin to open up, many Australians are now asking: What will the future of work look like and how do we prepare for it?

Top 10 in-demand jobs

Industry 4.0 is officially here. We are living through a megatrend of technological change. Rapid advances in automation, AI and big data are affecting the quality and quantity of jobs available in our near future. 

As human labour is substituted in favour of automation, the net displacement of workers is predicted to be in the millions. However, experts anticipate the number of jobs lost will be fewer than the number of new jobs created. 

The World Economic Forum predicts 97 million global roles will emerge in newly-formed industries.

New occupations will continue to require both digital and human components. The importance of human interaction will be integral as we move to a digital-first economy.

The highest growth jobs of tomorrow can be segmented into seven key occupational clusters:

  • Data and AI
  • Engineering
  • Cloud computing
  • People and culture
  • Product development
  • Marketing
  • Sales and content

From these clusters, the WEF has identified the top 10 roles in demand by 2025: 

  • Data analysts and scientists
  • AI and machine learning specialists
  • Big data specialists
  • Digital marketing and strategy specialists
  • Process automation specialists
  • Business development professionals
  • Digital transformation specialists
  • Information security analysts
  • Software and application developers
  • Internet of things specialists

Occupations at risk of displacement

Experts calculate 40% of Australia’s jobs will disappear in the next 10 years. At a minimum, 9% of jobs in the current labour market will be fully automated, with more than half of our workforce facing varying degrees of automation.

Globally, 85 million jobs are estimated to be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans and machines by 2025. 

Signs of ‘job polarisation’ are beginning to emerge in labour markets around the world. Today’s jobs are being segregated into low-skill/low-income and high-skill/high-income segments. 

  • Low-skill / low-income

    Jobs that do not require specialised training and involve completing simple tasks that can’t be automated.

  • High-skill / high-income

    Jobs that require complex tasks involving human judgement, problem-solving and various soft skills.

This separation makes a decline in middle-skill, middle-wage jobs inevitable. Those holding middle-wage jobs, those that involve routine and tasks easily replaced by automation, are at the highest risk of displacement. 

Occupations in this segment include:

  • Administrative office workers
  • Program administrators
  • Bank staff
  • Accounting clerks

The McKell Institute discovered the majority of the Australian workforce is employed in these high-risk occupations (figure 2.6). Because of this, over three million jobs in the hospitality, data entry and administrative industries are set to be lost in the coming years.


How this impacts education and training providers

VET educators play a crucial role in skilling our workforce in these emerging trends. Education and training providers can pivot to offer qualifications and short courses to train more Australians in industry-specific and cross-cutting skills of the future. 

Research from the Ready, Set, Upskill – Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow report found our technology, media and telecommunications industries are expected to grow by $10 billion over the next five years. This requires more than 156,000 digital technology workers to be trained by 2025. 

The report reveals that three out of four Australians want to undertake training in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Similarly, four in five Australian business leaders believe adopting new technologies into their workplaces will be crucial to achieving business goals.

“The time to act on workforce development is now… an imperative first step is ensuring Australia’s workforce is equipped with a basic level of digital literacy through effective skills development and training programs,” says John O’Mahony, partner at Deloitte Access Economics.

However, our $10 billion economy growth hinges on improving the digital literacy of our workforce. 

There are several ways training providers can contribute to the digital upskilling and reskilling of Australians. Providers can incorporate digital skills into course delivery to facilitate the smooth transition of workplaces into Industry 4.0. 

Providers can do this through three key strategies:

  • Developing units of competency that promote digital skills.
  • Embedding these units as a foundational subject rather than electives.
  • Collaborating with employers to develop courses that best meet the needs of the industry.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated our transition into a technology-driven labour market by years. Emerging roles in big data, robotics and AI will create new opportunities for career transitions for workers willing to invest in lifelong learning.

Candlefox is excited to see how our education and training system will innovate to accommodate changes in the world of work.

For this article, we pulled insights from leading institutions and experts from across the globe including:

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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