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Never heard of these jobs? How to prepare for the future of work

Does the phrase ‘future of work’ send you into a small panic? The future can feel undefined, far off and uncertain. But, what if it is closer – and clearer – than we believe?

According to Dr Peta White and Professor Russell Tytler from Deakin’s School of Education, it is. The proof lies in their new report, 100 Jobs of the Future, produced by Ford Australia in partnership with Deakin University and Griffith University.

‘In designing 100 future jobs, we gave details of what those jobs might look like but also focused on the skills needed to be able to take up those jobs, and we think that this demonstrates that these jobs really aren’t that distant from where we are now,’ Dr White says.

While at first glance, some of the jobs on the list might sound pretty far-out, they will evolve out of professions we already have now. You might think a nostalgist, for example, is a job that won’t be around for at least another 50 years – but the fact is, they already exist in some form now. Nostalgists are biography authors, photographers, any professional who captures the essence of someone’s life and ‘curates memories’ as Dr White points out. What will change is how technology will open up new possibilities to expand these jobs.

Fancy becoming a digital implant designer, robot ethicist, digital apiarist, biofilm plumber, offworld habitat designer, genetics coach, or space tourism operator? What are these jobs? What skills will they require?

The report illustrates the opportunities available in the future – especially for young people who are planning their schooling, TAFE, or university courses, and their future work.

After all, trying to decide what you want to be when you leave high school is hard enough without the uncertainty of what jobs will exist in the future. Knowing what the future of work could look like gives you the opportunity to build your own path, and develop the skills that will be in demand in the future.

Your future in your hands

No matter what career you want to follow – be it a mechatronics engineer or a cyborg psychologist – Prof. Tytler explains there are key skills you’ll need that are in high demand in these 100 future jobs.

‘Many future jobs will require technology skills involving digital innovation and quite a few involve design skills. But an important point is that if these skills are needed it will be together with people skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and the capability to continually learn over a lifetime,’ he says. ‘These will be the highly valued skills of the future’.

'These jobs really aren’t that distant from where we are now.'

Dr Peta White,
School of Education, Deakin University

‘Lifelong learning is a key thing, and it’s happening now – people going into the workforce have many more jobs in a lifetime than had previously been the case,’ he explains.

‘So, people need to be flexible, and build skills and need to keep re-learning. Having the mindset and skills around lifelong learning is going to be really important.’

Dr White points out that this is especially important if you’re keen to pursue a career that isn’t even in existence yet.

‘Yes, your ideal job of the future might not be something you can walk into at the end of your bachelor degree,’ she says.

‘But you can already construct your degree now to give you the skills to build the trajectory to get where you want to be.’

Dr White also notes that as you forge a path into the future, you should stay open to the possibilities it holds. ‘The report really highlights the innovative opportunities of the future. Jobs will evolve out of jobs we currently see in existence.

Dispelling fears of disruption

Many of the 100 jobs of the future are tightly linked with the use of digital technology – robotics, AI, virtual reality, and so on. Which might be the very idea that people have been resisting.

‘When you look at the literature, there is talk of disruption and questions around what will happen as jobs are lost to machines. People are divided about this, but the experts we interviewed [for the report] were all positive and optimistic about the possibilities that will open up,’ Prof. Tytler explains.

‘While our report certainly does canvas the inevitability of disruption, the 100 jobs of the future themselves focus on windows of opportunity and the skills that will open these up.

‘A lot of future jobs will involve interfacing between machines and people. It’s not as if machines will simply take over and do everything – it will be a matter of working out how to utilise them to make our lives better.’

Dr White agrees that a technology-enhanced workforce holds a plethora of opportunities for innovation.

‘Yes, digital technologies are a part of our ongoing future – as they have been for the past 10 years,’ Dr White says.

‘I think we’ll all be adept at using technology in broader aspects of our lives. As long as that’s appreciated within the scope of what we’ve already experienced, it’s not a particularly scary or unexpected thought.’

Not so weird and wacky jobs

Reading through the list of 100 jobs of the future, your initial reaction might be to pass them off as weird, strange or unexpected. Cyborg psychologist? Cricket farmer? De-extinction geneticist?

‘While these jobs might sound kind of quirky, when you read into them and the description, there’s a lot going on behind them,’ Dr White says.

‘The cyborg psychologist is a classic example, because you think, “Wow, what’s that?” If you had artificial limbs, or eyeballs, or brain-parts, or hearts, that really could take some adjusting to.

‘So, the cyborg psychologist helps you come to terms with the parts of your body that are not ‘yourself’ and are machine, as you integrate into one,’ she says.

Again, you might laugh at the idea of a cricket farmer (that’s farming the insects, not the sport), but Dr White says, ‘If you’re at all concerned with animal agriculture and land management, the cricket farmer allows us to talk about what’s going on with food production in an urban context, and how we’re going to produce edible protein in the future.

‘It’s also about alternative food sources, and locally-produced food versus industrially-produced food.’

What about becoming a de-extinction geneticist? Vivid scenes from Jurassic Park might flash through your mind, but Dr White says if you’re alarmed by the world’s current ecological state, ‘that’s a super exciting job to think about.

‘It offers the possibility that we can use technology and science skills to regenerate lost species to repopulate environments and work towards ecological balance,’ she says.

The real excitement about all the 100 jobs of the future is there will be a lot of room for innovation, and it will be the steps you take that could revolutionise and enhance the world of work.

Arm yourself with people skills, critical and creative thinking skills and an adaptable mindset when it comes to technology, and you’ll already be setting yourself up for a bright future.

Curious to discover what your job of the future could be? Take the 100 jobs of the future quiz.

Or, you can read detailed descriptions of each of the 100 jobs, and discover what skills you’ll need for your dream job.

this. featured experts
Dr Peta White
Dr Peta White

Lecturer In Education (Science Education), School of Education, Deakin University

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Prof. Russell Tytler
Prof. Russell Tytler

Alfred Deakin Professor and Chair In Science Education, School of Education, Deakin University

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