Australians cannot just rely on government to set policies and frameworks if the country wants to be prepared for the impact of technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation will have on jobs in the future.
Instead, any preparation needs to begin with industry.
This was the general consensus a group of panellists shared when they fronted attendees of the Australian Information Industry Association’s (AIIA) NSW Skills for Today, Jobs for Tomorrow forum on Thursday.
The panel included Medical Media COO Alexis Rouch, the University of Technology, Sydney vice-chancellor Attila Brungs, and futurist Shara Evans.
While panel moderator and former Telstra CEO David Thodey agreed with the others, he was also quick to highlight the work the government has being doing so far to address the potential impact new technologies could have on the future workforce.
“I think government’s role is always to set frameworks to allow business and community to get on and do things. ,” Mr Thodey told InnovationAus.com.
“I don’t think government is responsible for creating jobs or changing industries. I think some of the work that has been done around precincts – looking at how they can support even the startup hubs – is a great initiative,” he said.
“They can step in where there has been a market failure and sure it up for a period and get out and let business get on with it. I think that’s where governments can help.
“There are some policy issues around the impact technology in certain areas, so staring into that, and working it through is important.”
Mr Thodey, who is also the chairman of Jobs for NSW, said from a state government level there is even support to ensure regional Australia is brought along the journey.
“Under the [legislation for] Jobs for NSW, 30 per cent of all funding needs to go to regional NSW, so we have a very active program, both in agriculture [and] setting up incubators to support local businesses as much as we can.
“It’s not easy and we need to keep working at it because we need to find a solution for this conundrum where a lot of the jobs are in the cities and young people come in for it,” Mr Thodey said.
“We need to create the quality of life and opportunities in those regional centres because that can be a real advantage for Australia.”
Mr Thodey’s comments come off the back of the launch of AIIA’s Skills for Today, Jobs for Tomorrow position paper, which argues how government and industry need to develop a practical action plan that focuses on priority issues such as digital inclusion; workforce transition; skills, education and training; and industrial relations.
According to the position paper, 68 per cent believe improving education is the most important way for Australia to support young people so they are prepared for jobs of the future.
But how can government implement such action plans, particularly those focused around skilling, if it’s started to restrict potentially necessary skills of the future through recent changes that were made to the 457 Visa?
“Of course, we want to support Australians in jobs but we need additional skills and I think we’re going through a bit of a blip at the moment. I’m sure we’ll come back to a good landing,” Mr Thodey said.
“But there is no question we need more skills, digitally-enabled skills across a wide range of areas.”
During the next 12 months, AIIA said it will engage stakeholders from industry, government, community groups and more, to investigate what can be done to facilitate the development of appropriate policy responses and plans for action, including identifying technologies that are emerging and roles required to serve them