NEW OR­DER

AT THE AGE OF JUST 11, FU­TURE EM­PLOY­EES ARE AL­READY LEARN­ING SKILLS FOR THE CA­REERS OF THE FU­TURE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Stellar Contents - By ALEXAN­DRA CARL­TON

Why school­child­ren as young as 11 are train­ing for jobs that don’t yet ex­ist.

In one of the sleek, ar­chi­tec­turally de­signed class­rooms of Syd­ney’s Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, 30 stu­dents are fi­nal­is­ing busi­ness plans for their start-up ideas. One group is work­ing on the de­sign for an on­line anti-bul­ly­ing fil­ter. An­other has plans for CCTV drones to re­place fixed cam­eras, with the aim of re­duc­ing ur­ban crime rates.

Us­ing lap­tops, ipads and pro­jec­tor screens, they’re go­ing over de­tailed mar­ket­ing plans and pro­to­types, and nut­ting out strate­gies to out­ma­noeu­vre po­ten­tial com­peti­tors.

But these en­trepreneurs aren’t un­der­grad­u­ates in the mid­dle of a busi­ness de­gree. They’re chil­dren – with an av­er­age age of 11. They’re part of a two-day school-hol­i­day pro­gram called Lemonade Stand, the brain­child of start-up whiz Steve Glaveski, co-founder of in­no­va­tion con­sul­tancy Col­lec­tive Cam­pus.

Swip­ing and typ­ing with an ease that comes from work­ing with com­put­ers al­most since they were born, these stu­dents are learn­ing the sort of real-life skills that will likely be of far more use to them than the tra­di­tional

“three Rs” when they find them­selves nav­i­gat­ing the jobs of the fu­ture.

“We had to pick a prob­lem and de­velop a prod­uct to fix that prob­lem,” ex­plains 13-year-old James Oc­chi­uto, from Bondi, whose en­tre­pre­neur­ial streak al­ready ex­tends to im­port­ing stick­ers from over­seas and sell­ing them at a mark-up in his school’s play­ground. “To­mor­row we’re mak­ing a web­site and an app. It’s re­ally cool.”

His dad, Phillip, heard about the course on the ra­dio and re­alised it taught the sort of skills James wasn’t learn­ing in school. “I’m self-em­ployed my­self, and it seems that schools teach you to be an em­ployee rather than busi­ness-minded,” he says. “With ev­ery­thing chang­ing so fast, you have to stay on top of things, and this course seems like the right thing for kids who think a bit dif­fer­ently.”

Hav­ing a cre­ative brain and a thirst for self-start­ing are skills most chil­dren will need when they en­ter the work­place of 2020 and be­yond. The world is in the mid­dle of an em­ploy­ment up­heaval that looks to be as trans­for­ma­tive as the in­dus­trial revo­lu­tion, and vir­tu­ally none of the old rules ap­ply.

Up to five mil­lion Aus­tralian jobs, or 40 per cent of to­day’s work­force, will dis­ap­pear in the next 10 to 15 years, ac­cord­ing to the Com­mit­tee for Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment of Aus­tralia, and in re­gional ar­eas, it will be as much as 60 per cent of jobs. Ro­bot­ics will re­place many of them, largely in the tra­di­tional sec­tors of man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture and man­ual labour, and in their place we should see a rise in tech jobs and lots of part-time roles that re­quire more flex­i­bil­ity and adapt­abil­ity. Al­ready, two-thirds of the jobs cre­ated in the past five years have been part-time or ca­sual.

To keep up with these changes, says fu­tur­ist Mark Mc­crindle, peo­ple will need to be nim­ble – for­get about the old idea of say­ing, “I want to be a doc­tor,” or, “I want to be a teacher.” While there will still be de­mand for these es­sen­tial ser­vice jobs, a bet­ter way of arm­ing your chil­dren for the fu­ture is to teach them mul­ti­ple skills and the abil­ity to in­no­vate, com­mu­ni­cate and be com­fort­able with tech­nol­ogy, rather than fo­cus­ing heav­ily on one area.

“The fu­ture will de­mand that peo­ple en­hance their skill base,” ex­plains Mc­crindle. “We’ll see a move away from low-skilled jobs, which will be out­sourced or off­shored. Peo­ple skills, and adap­tive, in­no­va­tive and cre­ative skills, will count for more and more.” Or, as Glaveski puts it: “Kids are al­ways asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ but per­haps we should ask them, ‘What do you want to create?’”

It’s not just the next gen­er­a­tion that is read­just­ing to the new work­place rules. Many adults are adapt­ing on the run, mov­ing away from the nine-to-five to jobs that al­low them to pur­sue that elu­sive uni­corn, work/life bal­ance.

Lisa Hodgkins, 38, was a full-time ed­u­ca­tion pro­fes­sional be­fore she had her two chil­dren, now aged five and two. To­day, she works as part of the “gig econ­omy”, or share econ­omy, trad­ing her time, skills and pos­ses­sions for in­come. She rents her garage and a stor­age cage for $450 per month via Spacer.com.au; her car through Carnextdoor.com.au, which earns her around $350 a month; and pet-sits via Mad­paws.com.au, for an ex­tra $400 per month.

“The flex­i­bil­ity is fan­tas­tic – I get to spend time with my kids and con­trib­ute to the fam­ily with­out be­ing part of the rat race,” says Hodgkins, although she ad­mits that the ar­range­ment only works thanks to the re­li­a­bil­ity of her hus­band’s reg­u­lar in­come.

And this may hint where the brave new econ­omy is likely to hit hic­cups. Flex­i­bil­ity and nim­ble­ness sound ex­cit­ing and lib­er­at­ing – un­til you need to make reg­u­lar mort­gage pay­ments. Hurl­ing your­self bravely into a start-up might be doable when you’re young and have the fi­nan­cial sup­port of your par­ents, but is it re­al­is­tic for some­one in their 50s, or some­one from a lower so­cioe­co­nomic back­ground who needs a live­able in­come straight out of school? And how much of it will be avail­able to any­one with­out ac­cess to high-qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion, any­way?

“The old jobs are not com­ing back,” says jour­nal­ist and so­cial en­tre­pre­neur Fed­erico Pistono. “The new jobs will be highly so­phis­ti­cated, tech­ni­cally and cre­atively chal­leng­ing jobs, and only a hand­ful of them will be needed. The ques­tion is: what will the un­skilled work­ers of to­day do? So far, no­body has been able to an­swer that ques­tion.”

Part of the an­swer needs to lie with govern­ment pol­icy. Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull has long been an ad­vo­cate of up-skilling our work­force to face the de­mands of a tech­nol­ogy and ideas econ­omy, and has com­mit­ted $84 mil­lion to boost dig­i­tal lit­er­acy and en­cour­age stu­dents to study sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and maths (STEM) sub­jects. But there’s still a long way to go. Only 70 per cent of univer­sity grad­u­ates find full-time em­ploy­ment within four months of grad­u­a­tion.

Glaveski hopes that quick-think­ing, fast-act­ing govern­ment de­part­ments have the fore­sight to part­ner with or­gan­i­sa­tions like his to train teach­ers about the true fu­ture needs of their stu­dents: “They go on about it enough – ‘We’ve got to in­no­vate; we’ve got to look to the fu­ture.’ Enough lip ser­vice. Start re­ally get­ting be­hind the change.”

“Kids are al­ways asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ but we should ask them, ‘What do you want to create?’”

FOR­WARD THINKER Steve Glaveski teaches en­tre­pre­neur­ial skills to school stu­dents.

FAM­ILY INC. Self-starters Phillip Oc­chi­uto and his son James, 13.

NEW OR­DER Steve Glaveski with stu­dents at Melbourne’s Star of the Sea Col­lege.

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