Future Skills: The rise of machines will drive a need for more lifelong learning in Australia

By 2040, the average Australian will spend an extra three hours a week learning across their lifetimes, to keep up with the highly dynamic workplaces of the automation age.

According to AlphaBeta’s Future Skills Report, commissioned by Google, advances in technologies and automation sweeping through everything from supermarket checkouts to farming will drive dramatic shifts in Australia’s education and training requirements.

The report studied changes in more than 300 jobs, the tasks they involved, and the skills required to do them, to answer three questions: What skills do we need to succeed in the future? When do we need to learn these skills? And how can we acquire the skills we need?

It found the most valuable workplace skills to be uniquely human traits such as adaptability, teamwork, creativity and leadership. These skills need to be supported by a broad foundation of skills required to perform a specific task – for example, knowledge of mathematics and biology for vitals monitoring in nursing.

Workers will need not only more developed “human traits”; they will also need to adapt more quickly to changes to their jobs and the tasks they involve. On average, every Australian will change jobs 2.4 times over the next two decades, driving a greater need for upskilling and reskilling.

Correspondingly, adult education will become far more important in the coming years. Today, the average Australian acquires more than 80 per cent of their knowledge and skills before the age of 21. By 2040, Australians will acquire 41 percent of their knowledge and skills as adults, with older Australians dedicating an average of six hours out of their working week to education and training.

This all means that Australia will need to double its total investment in education and training from a combined 300 billion hours to 600 billion hours over the next two decades. To do this, the nation will need not only the traditional institutions like university and TAFE, but also more on-the-job training and short, online courses.

This data has significant implications for curriculums, people returning to the workforce, and Australia’s national productivity.

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