Why Australia needs to invest in human skills, not just tech ones

Australia and the world are facing a large and growing skills shortage. While technical skills, particularly STEAM, get the headlines, it’s critical human skills that aren’t being taught.

Deloitte Access Economics says that by the end of this decade two-thirds of all jobs will be soft skill intensive. And that same research found that tomorrow’s workforce, the high school and university students of today, don’t have access to the learning they need to develop those skills.

The way we educate needs to change to reflect the importance of human skills, yet a significant proportion of our future workforce doesn’t have access to this kind of learning. Our education system equips students with technical skills but doesn’t adequately prepare students with the fundamental human skills needed to be work-ready when they graduate.

Business success might be measured financially but it’s relationships, cooperation, collaboration and human interactions that drive true success.

Business success is built through the development of human soft skills such as communication, mindfulness, empathy, active listening and curiosity. Yet, a quarter of employers have difficulty filling entry level vacancies because applicants lack these human skills. And while educational institutions, vocational training and professional development courses focus on developing technical skills, gen Z is facing a perfect storm.

Organisations across the globe are facing the ‘Great Resignation’ and a war for talent which is making them rethink everything from recruitment and development to retention. The education system has undergone very little change for more than 40 years, yet the degree of change in the world is far more abrupt. And tomorrow’s workers are not being properly prepared for this new world.


The bulk of the jobs of the future don’t exist today and the vital soft skills to cope and thrive in the future of modern work are not being taught. Recent research from McKinsey & Company found that 77% of skills young people will need in the digital economy will be human soft skills. When I talk to employers, they almost always say that technical skills can be easily taught but that candidates lack the soft skills to be immediately successful and impactful when they start a new job.

Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics finds that the average worker changes jobs almost 20 times throughout their career and shifts careers at least five times. Faced with a rapidly changing world — with everything from emerging technologies through to geopolitical instability — young people need to be prepared to adapt as situations change and be prepared for some challenges and hardship.

While previous generations faced similar challenges, they didn’t occur at the same frequency as today. That meant they had more time to adapt. And, as the pace of change was slower, they could learn a set of skills and use them at the same employer for many years, or even decades. Human skills are increasingly valued as they’re highly transferable and include skills that enable high resilience, adaptability and creative problem-solving – all relevant for the future of work.

As a result, employers are increasingly looking for candidates with a mix of technical and human skills. For example, when problem solving, we want people to show empathy — to have the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and apply critical thinking. And when they draw a conclusion or solve a problem, they need to be able to communicate that confidently and in a way that resonates.

Underpinning all the human and technical skills is a critical foundation — self-awareness. When someone can reflect on their own performance in a situation and recognise where they did well and where they could improve, they’ll learn how to improve.

Technology is changing faster than ever before. But the human skills needed for success remain constant and increasingly in high demand. Investing in developing human skills today will ensure students and graduates are ready for whatever the world throws at them and businesses will have access to the required talent of the future.

Renata Sguario is the founder of Maxme.


SOURCE: https://www.smartcompany.com.au/opinion/australia-human-skills-tech/

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