Future workers: computer science, apprenticeships and soft skills

Lessons in education and training from the United States
Future of work Automation Digital disruption Digital literacy Labour market Skilled workforce Apprenticeships Vocational education and training United States of America Australia

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. To address this disruption, governments must prepare future workforces for jobs that will require more digital and interpersonal skills and less repetitive skills susceptible to automation.

Three areas of focus 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 — to develop post-secondary school specialisation and qualifications; and
  • soft skills training — such as effective communication, social and emotional intelligence, critical thinking and adaptability — to develop the means by which to most effectively facilitate the digital skills and specialisations.

In the United States, workforce development is a bipartisan priority, key to the agenda of most state governors across the country. As Australia faces the challenge of an uncertain future of work, looking at the strategies of US states, where there are diverse examples of excellence driven by a different educational system, provides an opportunity to put lifelong learning into practice.

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