Those who read the thermals of the future workforce are like eagles. But when we unexpectedly lose our job, we're like seagulls, fighting over the scraps.
High skilled jobs will be the cornerstone of our economy and HR will play a leading role in directing job seekers and ‘upskillers’ to the VET sector.
The Australian Government's Skills for All initiative is now subsidising places for all Australians aged 16 to pension age to complete a first certificate 111 or IV qualification.
A HECS style scheme where payment is deferred is available for those who undertake diplomas and advanced diplomas.
As a nation we'll have to exercise the biggest muscle we have - the one between our ears. That means studying - not rote learning like the old days of school - but 'hands on' classes where students learn by doing.
Each year, around a million workers change jobs and a quarter of these workers also change industries with many moving in to the service sector.
This doesn't mean that our manufacturing or primary industries are going to go 'belly-up' over night or there will be dole lines heading around the block.
It means that the developing countries of East Asia such as China are growing up. They are hungry for our resources and for goods they can't make themselves. East Asia's share of global manufacturing more than doubled from 1970 to 2008, reflecting its low labour costs.
Australian employers want highly qualified workers to expand their businesses. These workers will have Certificate 111 and IV qualifications at a minimum.
A skilled workforce means employers can compete on quality and at a higher price. So instead of making washing machines and fridges (for example), we'll make robots for the automotive industry or develop ways to increase our food production.
Manufacturing plays an important part in the Australian economy. It employs around 950,000 people and accounts for 9 per cent of output. It's going to change, not go away.
We will be a supplier of manufactured goods that build on our comparative advantages: our educated workforce; our ability to design and manufacture specialised equipment; our reputation for high- quality food; our research and development skills and our expertise in mining-related equipment.
Completing a diploma is worth $10,000 a year of income over a school leaver. That's more than $400,000 across a 40-year working life. On average, wages for people without a certificate III qualification are about $180 per week less than for those with a certificate III or above qualification. If you want to earn more, you need to learn more.
According to Westpac Market Highlights (July 2012), most of the employment action has been in mining. But that's not the only game in town. There have been job gains in education, health and professional & technical services, which have offset job losses in construction, leisure & hospitality, wholesale & transport, retail and manufacturing.
The top five performing sectors (mining, utilities, education, health and public/business services) have added about one million employees since 2008 and have grown at about 3.7 per cent per year.
This is the start of the great job migration from relatively insecure jobs to jobs higher up the value chain.
Malcolm King works in the area of generational workforce change. He was an associate director in the DEEWR Mature Age Programs in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University in Adelaide.
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