The social and economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis have been felt far and wide. Physical distancing measures have changed how we work and socialise, possibly forever. This has forced us all into a financial and social “time out” that has hit businesses across most sectors hard. The declines in the economy haven’t been this severe since the Great Depression.
In Australia, construction and mining, which employs about one-million workers was allowed to continue, for the most part, with the implicit instruction that everyone on sites follow strict safety measures including social distancing and increased hygiene practices. That's not to say that some didn't lost their jobs or have their projects put on hold.
Industries that haven’t fared as well include hospitality and tourism, which have seen massive decreases due to state and international border closings. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports that 1 in 3 hospitality jobs have been lost due to the forced closure of restaurants, bars and pubs as well as hotel vacancies.
Through the crisis it was the essential workers that got us through, though this term was widely expanded to include supermarket staff, teachers, child care workers, and commercial cleaners, among many others that we as a society had largely taken for granted. There was a renewed sense of thanks for our health care workers with entire cities timing applause to coincide with the changing of shifts at hospitals and an outpouring of support on all media platforms that portrayed nurses and doctors as real-life super heroes.
As the virus is contained and restrictions ease, we’re slowly starting to see our economy recover. With most restrictions expected to be lifted by the end of the year (minus international travel) it is expected that the economy will achieve a full bounce back in 2021. As we begin to move forward we look now to the industries that will assist in this bounce back and continue to thrive in the years to come.
Experts have predicted that Health Care, Science and Technology, Education and Construction will provide 62% of total employment growth over the next five years. Here, we take a look at how these industries are expected to change and grow, as well as the others that are expected to be in demand.
Health care is expected to make the the largest contributions to job growth over the next five years. Nursing and psychology in particular are set to see a reduction in university fees as the government increases its contribution to the cost of these courses in an attempt to funnel students into these industries.
Vocational Health Training has already undergone some changes as more focus is put on the safety of healthcare workers. Emphasis has been put on training for the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and infection control.
In addition to the human side, with the need for nurses, doctors and other health professionals continuing to grow, technology will begin to play a bigger role. With the recent success of the COVID SAFE app and the tele-consultations it’s likely that we’ll see an uptake in jobs in this field. Add to that the rise in health monitoring wearables (think FitBit and Apple Watch) that will need to be produced and result in the creation of more jobs.
During this pandemic society turned to the scientists for guidance and realised what an important role science plays in our every day lives. Moreover, for the first time in history, scientists have been working together in a truly globalised effort with a singular, urgent focus.
The standard hold-ups that are usually in place during academic research have been set aside. Studies are being published in record time, researchers have discovered and shared hundreds of biological advancements, clinical trials have been undertaken, all under one united, global effort.
Today’s technology and information sharing capabilities have made it possible for researchers all over the world to share findings almost immediately. This provides an opportunity to perform research that is more open, efficient and collaborative. Findings are being shared more readily, across disciplines and borders.
It’s likely that this renewed interest in science could lead to more jobs and more funding in specific areas like epidemiology. Additionally, with the growing popularity of AI and automation across so many industries, the demand for data science skills is growing, and is currently outpacing the supply of skilled applicants.
In an effort to steer students into industries it believes will drive job growth, the Federal Government has recently announced major cuts to the cost of some degrees, and raising the costs of those which have fewer job prospects upon graduation. One of the degrees it believes will lead to job growth is in Education.
Australian teaching degrees are recognised and sought after around the world. For years, international students have flocked to Australia’s sunny shores to complete their degrees in Education while enjoying a working holiday, before returning home to enjoy long and rewarding teaching careers.
In Australia, due to the ageing population, a large percentage of the current teachers are soon set to retire. This, mixed with our population growth has created a strong demand for new teachers that is expected to last for several years. The most in demand teachers include both primary and secondary, as well as STEM.
As new technologies are introduced, so is the need for software programmers and cloud computing experts. The workforce permanently changed when physical distancing measures forced so many to work remotely, and with this shift comes the need for cyber security. It is also predicted that voice and motion technology will be in demand for hygienic safety (think voice activated building entry and touch-less taps).
Automation technology is predicted to be implemented wherever possible in an effort to minimise possible future disruptions similar to what we’ve just experienced. In many cases, automated systems have the ability to carry on, business as usual, during a crisis, and require minimal maintenance and human intervention.
Many specialists predict that the changes to the IT landscape after the COVID-19 pandemic will be much further reaching than previously expected. It’s important that students studying IT be flexible and adaptable as this industry is prone to such rapid changes.
The Federal Government has recently announced spending $1.5 billion on road and infrastructure projects in an attempt to help lift Australia’s economy out of recession. Vocational Education and Training will play an important role in this by training workers to fill the current needs while also providing them with transferrable skills and the opportunity to upgrade them.
There has also been a recent spike in home improvement jobs after we all spent so much time in isolation and working from home, staring at the walls around us. The desire to improve one’s living area with the added bonus of adding property value is a win/win. Bunnings reported that sales were up 19.2 per cent in the second half of the financial year, compared to 5.8 per cent in the first half.
Tradespeople continue to enjoy one of the most in demand careers in the current job market. There is a continuous need for building, handyman repair, electrical, plumbing, and landscaping, among others, and the current crisis did nothing to abate this. These short and long term trends are sure to create more jobs for skilled tradespeople.
The affects that the COVID-19 pandemic had on manufacturing was unexpected and unprecedented. Panic buying caused problems for demand and supply on a global scale. Other areas of production experienced extreme drops in demand and were forced to cut costs. Physical distancing added to the pressure on manufacturers as the majority of the workforce is not able to work remotely.
Manufacturing is evolving. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the downside of off-shore production. Western manufacturing was not able to produce the necessary items to combat the virus. It is likely that moving forward governments will look to domestic manufacturing as a way to rebuild the economy and create a more resilient workforce.
In addition, it’s likely that the major focus in manufacturing will shift; think robotics, mechatronics and automation. Over the last decade, advances in AI and IoT have created significant efficiencies in nearly every aspect of manufacturing operations. Companies that adopted these technologies early on have seen a 7% revenue growth over their competitors.
When industry evolves, training must evolve with it. Manufacturing will need workers with skills in STEM who are able to adapt and pivot to the rapid changes in technology.
Logistics and Supply Chain
It is likely that the retail sector as we knew it a thing of the past. With online shopping becoming more convenient, and more affordable, it appears that jobs will be created in delivery and warehousing.
Additionally, logistics hubs will begin to appear locally. As discussed above, over dependence on on off-shore production left many industries vulnerable to shortages. Add to that the rising oversees labour costs and it becomes apparent that the key moving forward will be establishing workable and versatile local supply chains.
This will create the need for more skilled workers in several different areas, including Logistics Administrators, Managers and Directors, and Warehouse, Inventory and Transport staff. There will likely be increasing need for skill sets in these areas in the immediate and long-term future.
When we get right down to it, there are some professions that we just cannot do without. Teachers, nurses, counsellors, pharmacists, among others, play such a crucial and significant role in our society. Many of us took for granted the hours upon hours our children spend learning at school until we were forced to take on that responsibility. The same was true of nurses and pharmacists. As we lined up to fill our prescriptions or have medical tests done it became apparent just how much we rely on these skilled workers.
And the demand is only going to continue to grow.
How to Be Ready For Future Jobs
As we move forward into this new “normal”, it is important that we remember how quickly things can change and how all industries must work proactively to remain adaptable. Technological advancement is accelerating, meaning that industries will feel the pressure to keep up more as time goes by. Workers will need to stay relevant and up-to-date within their industries in order to remain competitive.
Microcredentials might just be the answer. Also known as short courses, nano degrees, mini degrees, digital-credentials, or badges, they are skill based qualifications that are broken down into small blocks of learning that are often earned through low-cost online courses. They are predominately offered through Vocational Education and often focus on “employability skills”, adapting education and filling skills gaps in prior learning.
It is predicted that microcredentials will be in high demand in the future for these very reasons. As employers begin to value individual skills over past experience, workers will turn to training that is convenient, accessible and affordable in order to remain competitive for future jobs.