Technological disruption is rapidly changing the nature of work and the skills needed to succeed at work. It’s estimated that around half of current work activities can be automated by adapting currently available technologies. 

As Australia faces the challenge of an uncertain future of work, a new report from the United States Studies Centre looks at the strategies of individual American states, where there are diverse examples of excellence driven by different educational systems.

The report identifies three areas of focus that are seen as the critical components to developing the future workforce: computer science education to develop digital skills; pathways to skilled work ­— most commonly apprenticeships; and soft skills training, such as effective communication, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking and adaptability.

"Over the past decade, the capabilities of artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning technologies have escalated dramatically, as have their commercial applications," Director of the USSC's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, Claire McFarland, says.

"These changes and challenges face American and Australian youth. Given US state governors’ collective focus in this space, this examination of the themes underlying America’s workforce development strategies at both a national and state level provide insight into areas in which US and Australian states can learn from each other to better prepare youth for the changing workplace."

Key points

  • With a strong foundational digital skills curriculum in place, policymakers should turn to supporting teachers and developing a strong national narrative about the importance of such skills.
  • As technological advancement changes workplace requirements and stokes new industries, Australia’s apprenticeship system hasn’t shifted accordingly. Governments can diversify the industries to which the apprenticeship system caters.
  • In 16 of the top 20 metro areas in the United States, soft skills make up four of the top 10 skills in short supply. Australian employers are also increasingly demanding these skills. The most successful future employees will complement deep technical capabilities with advanced soft skills.

View report

Media enquiries

Drew Sheldrick
T 02 9114 2622 
drew.sheldrick@sydney.edu.au