How can we prepare the workforce of tomorrow?

Businesses in both Australia and New Zealand are struggling from near-record levels of unemployment. The Federal Government in Australia hosted a Jobs and Skills Summit earlier this month to try to find solutions, including the lifting of permanent migration to 195,000 spaces. While migration is a common lever to pull to increase access to skilled workers in both Australian and New Zealand, it’s not the only solution.
Increased workforce participation through policies that make it easier for women to work such as better access to childcare and gives first nations people and minority and disadvantaged groups better access to quality employment can also help relieve the pressures in the labour force.
Importantly a strong focus on how we can better equip our future workforce for the challenges they’ll face, and what training they’ll need, to be most successful will help build the skilled workers businesses need now and for the future.

Developing skills while in education

The pandemic has not only had a hugely negative impact on those in education, but also on their work experience opportunities. Many young people have missed out on a previously ‘conventional’ introduction to the working world, while organisations are still discovering how to operate in the new era of work, which in turn makes it harder to integrate newcomers.
Businesses can and should play their part in better preparing kids for their careers. By working with secondary school and tertiary educators, it’s possible to reshape the curriculum so that it is relevant for the post-pandemic era. Recently IBM shared their SkillsBuild for Students online program to high school students in South Australia to help prepare them for success in the technology sector after school. Globally, big players in tech, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple and Google already invest heavily in K-12, not just to provide their own software to schools, but to help provide students with skills that prepare them better for the technology they may be using in the future.
As Hays CEO, Alistair Cox discussed in 2020, business leaders must take responsibility for this; after all, they are uniquely placed to share their guidance so that students understand which skills are in demand and how they might develop these. That way, once they are out in the workforce, they already possess the foundational skills needed for the transition into specific industries.

Offering additional support once in work

What about those young people who have already started in the world of work?
It’s important to consider that these people will require help and opportunities to develop – that way, everybody benefits. Making sure that you invest in junior employees’ growth is key if we are to close the skills gap and prepare the workforce of tomorrow for the new era of work. What opportunities are available within your organisation? How much hands-on experience do you provide to your entry-level staff?
Do you offer mentoring and coaching? It’s important to consider not only those skills you can offer to these employees but those that they offer to you. To further ensure that everybody benefits, some organisations implement a two-way mentorship scheme in which senior and junior colleagues train one another with relevant skills and knowledge. This boosts employees’ confidence in two ways. Firstly, by allowing them to develop useful skills and, secondly, by proving that their current skillset and experience is of real value to yourself and others. Constant support in the workplace is integral to smooth onboarding, as well as overall retention of employees. In our latest Salary Guide, 60% of respondents said that developing technical skills is most important to them, and poor training and development was in the top five reasons job seekers intend to look for a new role.
If organisations want to reap the rewards of our future pipeline of talent, they must take responsibility for adequately preparing young people for the working world and nurturing them on arrival. Failing to do so risks missing out on the skills and knowledge that these people have which are becoming increasingly valuable and relevant in the digital age.

About this author

Adam Shapley, Managing Director, Hays New Zealand and Hays IT Australia & New Zealand, began working at Hays in 2001 and during this time has held significant leadership roles across the business including responsibility for multiple specialisms in various locations across Australia & New Zealand. In 2018, he was appointed to Hays ANZ Management Board and made Managing Director for Hays New Zealand. Adam is also responsible for the strategic direction of the Hays Information Technology business across Australia & New Zealand including driving growth across Digital Technology, Projects & Business Change and IT Operations & Support.

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