What will our graduates need to succeed in 2050? Will their graduating skills still be relevant, and most importantly, what are we doing to invest in their future?
When we think about population demographics in Australia, it tends to be the ageing population that dominates discussions—and given its significant growth, it’s not surprising that it takes pole position.
Yet it’s the exciting dynamics of our youth that will secure Australia’s future as a successful and prosperous nation. This is the next generation for whom we should ensure we are appropriately investing. But are we?
Already, we know that our youth population is increasing, with reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics projecting a rise of 50 percent before 2050. We know too, that our economy is restructuring, technology is transforming, and work is evolving.
Clearly Australia’s youth will be facing many challenges. And while it’s said that every generation seeks to create a better life for their children, are we really preparing our young people for success?
“Right now, we’re seeing significant differences in the way we work—from working remotely to the 24/7 connectivity that pervades all aspects of our lives,” says Associate Professor Stephen Boyle, Academic Dean for the UniSA Business School. “Shifts in local and global economies are creating new opportunities, and as Australia moves away from traditional economic bases, such as manufacturing, mining and agriculture, universities will need to adjust.
Without doubt, innovation has been the business buzzword for much of 2016.
“Our graduates will need skills that remain relevant in the future: communication, collaboration and problem solving, are critical, as are innovation, creativity, and a global mindset.”
As a catalyst for change, it’s critical for business growth. The ability to foster innovation, is already a skill in high-demand. And those with the capacity to generate innovation or display entrepreneurial flair, are set to become leaders in their field— especially when there is a high demand to solve unique business challenges.
“The significance of entrepreneurial skills for future careers cannot be underestimated,” says Associate Professor Boyle. “Come 2050, the ability to be enterprising and innovative will likely be a non-negotiable skill for employers. Especially given the predicted level of technological advances.”
This is where innovation is key. Yet, many believe that innovation is an innate ability—you either have it, or you don’t—so for universities, teaching innovation could pose a hefty problem.
“Entrepreneurship is much broader than the creation of a new business venture,” says Associate Professor Boyle. “At its core, it is a mindset—a way of thinking and acting. It’s about imagining new ways to solve problems and create value.”
“To be entrepreneurial and innovative, our graduates will need drive, persistence, the ability to question the status quo, ingenuity, agility, vision, confidence, and a tolerance of risk.”
“Innovation and entrepreneurship require a mix of creative flair and business acumen and from that perspective, they can absolutely be taught.”
“Working with business experts around the world is central to the way this degree will operate,” says Associate Professor Boyle.
Come 2017, UniSA is tackling this issue front on, as we introduce our brand new Bachelor of Innovation (Honours). Designed by innovation expert, and previous Chief Innovation Officer of World Vision, Industry Professor David Paterson, it will develop these attributes in cross-disciplinary studio-based projects, and will be supported by academic and industry mentors.
“It will be key to how we deliver our content and how our students learn from real-life examples.”
A YOUNG PERSON TODAY WILL HAVE 5 CAREER CHANGES AND AN AVERAGE OF 17 JOBS IN THEIR LIFETIME
The degree seeks to attract highly motivated students who want to be innovators and change-agents in their chosen career. It will strive to connect student experiences with real world industry challenges, by partnering with industry on issues of global significance.
Engaging with business will continue to be an important factor for universities and students, as they navigate more complex career pathways. Graduates today, are expected to understand an array of technical skills; converse across generations, cultures and time zones; and be able to confidently manage a solid work-life balance.
It’s estimated that a young person today, will have five career changes and an average of 17 jobs in their lifetime. So adaptability and flexibility will also be skills in high demand.
How different this is to a generation ago, where your qualification led you to a career you’d almost certainly hold for life.
“Our youth will need the skills to manoeuvre from job seekers to job creators,” says Associate Professor Boyle. “The flexibility and adaptability we afford our students with their own lives—whether for work, family, or other extra-curricular activities—will help them develop their own capabilities.”
High-profile social commentator, Bernard Salt, holds a similar view, sharing his thoughts about ‘the great skills shift’ at a recent UniSA Business School forum. He suggested that the workforce of the future will be bigger, smarter, more flexible and more mobile in order to access work opportunities.
“Developing globally capable graduates is fundamental to our mission,” says Associate Professor Boyle. “Students gain global perspectives throughout their studies, via international case studies, overseas exchange programs and internships, as well as through our highly-internationalised academic staff.”
In fact, the UniSA Business School has a highly diverse cultural profile, with two thirds of our faculty born outside Australia. Representing 39 different countries, more than 40 percent of our faculty speak a language other than English and 52 percent have worked overseas. This diversity is also represented in our student body.
“Australia’s underlying cultural diversity will be our strength. Diversity creates new and interesting cultures, fosters ideas and innovation, and builds relationships with others around the globe,” says Associate Professor Boyle.
A diverse generation of young people will be able to capitalise on Australia’s competitive strengths, and innovate to increase productivity and help our economy thrive. By providing a solid foundation through education, we can support young Australians to progress their ideas, enterprise skills, and global connections to build their experiences so they are ready to confront, and prosper in, their future career.
“Clearly the playing field has changed, and will continue to change, but we are doing the very best to ensure our students are equipped with the right skills for the future, and are ready to face the world.”