Media & Speeches

Skills, Education Focus in Making Strong Australia

This was originally published in the Herald Sun on 9 April 2018.

Wishful thinking doesn’t create better jobs or put extra dollars into pay packets. It doesn’t attract investment, open factories, find export routes or convince someone to take a risk by launching a new enterprise.

We can’t ignore the technological changes underway. We know the world of work is evolving, but instead of fearing the worst now is the time to equip Australians to create and embrace new opportunities. 

We’ve always been a nation that pulls together and faces our challenges head on.

Transformation and reinvention must be at the heart of ensuring our nation can withstand the global winds of change. This involves creating centres of excellence where we can attract and retain talented and skilled Australians who will protect and strengthen our communities. 

To do this, we need to work together – business and communities - to strengthen the expertise to claim our stake in global marketplaces and supply chains, including advanced manufacturing. Australians are pragmatic problem-solvers who are sick of the bickering that dominates the political landscape.

That’s why the Business Council of Australia, Sky News and the Herald Sun have joined forces for the Strong Australia campaign. We are bringing together influential business and community leaders this Thursday (April 12) at the Hume Global Learning Centre in Broadmeadows to tackle the issues that matter most to Australians.

Places like Broadmeadows are at the centre of change and this is a great opportunity for a dynamic community to foster new businesses and drive new, better-paying and sustainable jobs.

As a country we haven’t always managed change as well as we could have done. By bringing big and small businesses and the community together we can seize opportunities instead of falling victim to forces beyond our control.

Although no one can predict the future with certainty, I think the outlook is more positive than negative.

Every job will change, but that doesn’t mean every job will disappear or be taken over by robots.

Artificial Intelligence and machines might be used for some tasks that are routine or risky, but jobs will evolve to require more human interaction, a higher level of digital capability and a higher level of skill.

Not everyone will be a computer scientist, but they will need to be capable of lifelong learning to continually adapt to changes in technology.

All of us – businesses, individuals and governments – need to play our part in preparing for change.

Businesses should own the transition of their workforces. They need to understand and plan through skills audits and capability assessments.

Employers need to be savvier about identifying and addressing likely skills gaps. They need to be transparent about the impact of technology on their workforce and the impact of data on their customers.

Individuals have a responsibility to consider their own career path, and proactively upskill and re-skill as needed.

Governments should put in place the processes and systems that enable individuals to thrive and businesses to help.

We need the economic settings that will promote investment, business activity and job creation. In particular, that means competitive tax and regulatory systems that drive investment and a personal tax and welfare system that rewards effort and participation.

And we need an education and skills system better suited for the future world of work. We must remove the cultural bias where vocational education and training is viewed as second-class compared to university. It is not.

Training needs to be dynamic, modular and encourage lifelong upskilling and re-skilling.

The Business Council is calling for the creation of a Lifelong Skills Account for every Australian. It would allow everyone to continually update and adapt the skills they will individually need to thrive in the new world of work.

No one wants future generations to wonder why we let opportunity pass us by.

This is not a time for a divisive debate. This is a time to pull together. We must make sure this big transition is fair and that we look after people.

It can be exciting. Australia has so many opportunities that we can take advantage of and the challenge is making sure every Australian gets access to those opportunities no matter where they live.