When looking to the future of the Cessnock LGA and Hunter Valley region, it’s important to consider not only what industries will grow, but where employment opportunities will come from within that growth.
Rise of automation
Some industries are likely to experience growth; however it will be through mechanisation or computerisation and will come at the expense of human labour.
One contemporary example exists with a Chinese factory, Changying Precision Technology Company, which produces mobile phones. Their workforce was reduced from 650 people down to 60 employees, replacing personnel with robotics and automation. Their government is incentivising efficiencies through automation, quite a different strategy from Australia who have a strategic focus on jobs.
Future of jobs
Not all jobs are vulnerable, however there are occupations more likely to avoid computerisation. These include the services industry that require soft or people skills and a level of nuance in human interaction that has yet to be successfully replicated by computer programming.
Outsourcing nearly every function of our lives is increasingly possible. As economic pressures make it less feasible for people to stay home full time to look after children or the home, tasks like cleaning, ironing, mowing, dog walking and shopping can all be outsourced. Read more
For the Hunter Region, the Regional Australia Institute recognised that Cessnock local government Area (LGA), had the largest proportion of highly vulnerable jobs, at 30.1%, and higher than the Australian average of 26.5%. The most vulnerable jobs have been identified in sales, hospitality and food. The Job Vulnerability in Australia report cites that regions which have innovation and entrepreneurial skills are the most adaptive to the changing nature of work. The report says workforce development will be required in order to address both technical and soft skills gaps needed by jobs of the future. The Regional Australia Institute also advocate for ongoing skills development, and transferable skill sets in regional Australia. They say remaining adaptable to any future workforce challenges is a priority for regional areas, and ongoing investment in skills development is crucial.
The future of jobs could rest in the areas of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). STEM or STEAM literacy is predicted to be one of the most important skill attributes of a future workforce. The skills taught within these subjects in STEAM are all soft, transferrable and desirable employability attributes. These include problem solving, collaboration, strategic thinking, creative thought, and digital literacy. STEM/ STEAM skills are prioritised in the comprehensive plan for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education in Australia. The plan was released by the Education Council, the National STEM School Education Strategy 2016-2026. The strategy says “enterprise skills such as communication, clear thinking, creativity and problem solving were identified by industry as being increasingly important now and in the future”.