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Chair’s message – The future of work is now and we need to be prepared

 

Ms Donna Bonney

As we emerge from one of the most disruptive years in modern history and chart a new course forward in a post-COVID world, I recognise the important role Jobs Queensland will play in supporting Queensland’s recovery.

While our research often focuses on high-level workforce and skills policy, ultimately our work is about supporting economic development by ensuring the state’s skills system provides Queensland businesses and Queenslanders with access to the right skills to run a successful business or obtain meaningful employment.

The significant impact the pandemic has had on industries and jobs across the state has acutely brought into focus the evolving nature of work in Queensland and what these changes mean for the workforce and skilling in the short and long-term.

As many of us have experienced first-hand, our work has changed, particularly the role of technology in our working lives and how it shapes how and where we work.

Many of the accelerating workforce trends we are currently experiencing were identified in our Future work, future jobs research released in 2019, which was the culmination of a two-year project investigating what work would be like in Queensland by 2030.

The report identified three major drivers that were impacting work in Queensland as we approached 2030:

  • Technological innovation
  • Social and demographic changes
  • Legislative, institutional and policy influences.

The pandemic has amplified the effects of these drivers. In some cases, future work scenarios originally envisaged to evolve over a 10-year timeframe became commonplace within a single year.

Throughout Queensland, the rapid adoption of technology by businesses has been driven by the need to continue to conduct business even when employees need to stay at home.

Agility and diversification have been key to business survival. Providing innovative solutions to immediate issues as well as developing new ways of delivering products and services has supported business survival. Similarly, businesses have had to deal with the fragility of global supply chains.

At the same time, employees have had to develop their digital skills, often without access to any formal skilling opportunities. Team leaders and managers have had to rapidly learn how to manage teams remotely, and to provide leadership through a period of great uncertainty.

Remote working has led to an increase in flexible work arrangements as parents have had to manage a period of home-schooling as well as full-time work commitments. It also has supported an improvement in work-life balance as time usually lost during commuting was repurposed to family and other commitments.

Our future work research also predicted that the impacts of each driver to be uneven across Queensland’s industries and regions, impacting different cohorts in different ways as a result of a number of factors. In many ways the pandemic has highlighted this ‘unevenness’.

Unfortunately, many people in insecure work became unemployed. For many with ongoing employment, their hours were cut as demand for products and services decreased. Other segments of the workforce saw their hours increase.

At the same time, education and training has been severely disrupted. Schools, universities, and vocational training providers were required to quickly adopt online delivery to support continuity of services. For many teachers, trainers and lecturers the adjustment has been significant and, for some, resulted in a very steep learning curve to go to a fully online delivery model.

The pandemic created an opportunity for the education and training industry to trial new and innovative delivery modes to support inclusive access for all learners, regardless of location or stage of educational maturity.

Digital literacy and digital skills have been essential as businesses have transitioned to new ways of working to survive. Nearly every industry and every business has increased the use of digital technology.

The increased demand on digital infrastructure has also brought into focus the “digital divide” between metropolitan and regional areas and the need for equitable access to digital literacy and skills training.

As Queensland progresses further along its recovery, it is timely for government and industry to reflect and consider the five key themes in the Future work, future jobs report as priorities and responses evolve:

  • Change is inevitable, however we can manage transitions
  • Skills drive economic and social prosperity
  • Access to quality work is essential
  • Place-based leadership creates stronger regions
  • Lifelong learning and skills attainment underpin Queensland’s future.

These themes and the 18 associated recommendations are even more relevant for the post-COVID world as they were prior and our planning will need to consider these factors over the longer term.

Change is not new nor is it always a negative experience. While COVID-19 has been unexpected and its long-term impacts are not yet clear, it provides Queensland with the opportunity to assess our future direction and to position our state as an innovative and diverse economy that offers opportunities for all.

Jobs Queensland is committed to supporting that ambition.

To find out more about Jobs Queensland’s Future work research, visit www.jobsqueensland.qld.gov.au/futurework

Donna Bonney
Jobs Queensland Chair

Last updated 15 March 2021