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The future of work in Australia – what’s left for young people?

Updated: Aug 28, 2020

The passions and aspirations of many young Australians are being disregarded while they’re pigeonholed into ‘essential’ career options.

2020 has changed plans for all of us. With jobs lost, savings being dipped into and uncertainty around when normality will return, it is no surprise people would be wondering what choices are left now – especially when it comes to working and earning.

44% of job losses in Australia (thanks to COVID-19) have hit those under 25 years of age. This group could have just be starting university, had plans to work and save for a gap year or have just finished university. Despite where they fall, they are probably feeling as though their career options are looking slim.

So, what career options do young people have right now?

Industries may take longer to recover than a career can wait. While it feels like a blow to not make a career choice that aligns with passions and personal skills, the backing of careers deemed ‘essential’ make it difficult for those who may have ‘non-essential’ career ambitions.

University Courses

Last week, the federal government announced plans to charge higher fees on university courses that have lower employability outcomes. While the choice to undertake these degrees is still available, humanities, society and culture and communications studies fees will increase by 113%. Without considering the transferable skills and value that these studies bring to individuals’ employability in other fields and the span of their careers, the price hike could be a big deterrent for many to study.

However, the government is significantly reducing course fees by up to 62% for engineering, environmental sciences, psychology, education, nursing, STEM, IT and health studies. Nurses, aged-care workers and hospital support staff are in demand roles but so are roles which will be pivotal towards rapid technological advancement.

“A decade’s worth of technological advancement and skills evolution is being compressed into 2020 due to COVID-19. The virus has unleashed a global ‘future of work’ experiment on us all” Anders Sörman-Nilsson, a futurist and the founder of the Sydney-based think tank and trend analysis firm Thinque said.

Public Sector

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) were reportedly processing 39,000 applications in April 2020. The highest number in four years. With over 300 different roles being offered, they are one of the major employers who have continued hiring during COVID-19. The ADF offer great training opportunities, non-desk jobs and secure employment.

Infrastructure, Manufacturing and Trades

Atlassian CEO, Mike Cannon-Brookes announced the One Million Jobs plan in Australia, this week. A plan to create an estimated 1.8 million new and sustainable jobs, created through accelerated investment in energy, building, manufacturing, transport, recycling, land use and training sectors. Alongside the government’s announcement on major infrastructure projects and building grants, there will be a drive for these relevant skills in these industries and trade experience. TAFE could be the option for many to obtain these qualifications.

There is still so much uncertainty that COVID-19 will bring. While the federal government grapples with the largest unemployment figures in 19 years, there will be more job creation initiatives and changes that shape future careers.

Unfortunately, Gen Z will pay the biggest price for the damage COVID-19 has created. While there might not be enough career options on the table right now, the rapid innovation and adaptation seen so far, lends hope that there are more career choices to come, with hopefully better conditions.

Zoe Jarousek


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