What Does the Future of Work Look Like for Grads?

By Mia Casey

We hear all the time about how the rise in technology will lead to drastic job cuts and complete industry restructuring, but as we all know: predicting the future is not an exact science. If you look at these articles over recent years, half will say X industry will see massive job cuts, while the other half will say the complete opposite. It’s impossible to guess precisely what will happen, but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for the general direction the workforce is heading.

So, as a nod to all those recent (or soon to be recent) graduates, let’s have a look at how the future of work is likely to change the skills we require, the places where we work, and how we actually work.

What skills do we need?

Changes to higher education

The Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article that quoted Michael Nguyen, a Commerce graduate from Curtin University who now works as a marketing exec, who feels as though his degree didn’t prepare him for the workplace:

“You don’t learn [how to use platforms and create campaigns on social media] at university, you only learn textbook theory on things like what consumers do.”

Essentially highlighting the apparent divide between traditional learning structures and the needed push towards work-integrated learning and renewed ties to industry.

Many universities are making these changes, with UTS already incorporating such considerations into their strategy for 2027. As noted by UTS’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Education, Peter Scott, UTS are focusing on “unbundling the degree, redesigning the physical campus and working with industry”.

Like UTS, tertiary education providers will need to start thinking about how their services can reflect shifts in workforce norms and expectations, with a renewed aim to arm graduates with the required skills and employability they will need to enter such a market.

Soft skills gaining popularity

For recent graduates, future employers are likely to start seeking skills that you can begin developing now. A 2016 report, The Future of Work – Setting Kids Up for Success, predicted that the 2030 job market will rely on skills ‘including critical thinking, communication, collaboration, connectivity, creativity and culture’.

‘It’s the mix of skills that matter – a good balance across hard and soft skills will give younger generations the greatest advantage as they enter the workforce’(x).

Other fundamental skills – including ‘self-management skills, initiative and problem-solving skills and teamwork skills’ (x) – are also vital for the coming workforce, and can help new grads get ahead of the competition.

Aside from soft skills, digital literacy will be essential: ‘one in two Australians will need skills in programming, software development and building digital technology to remain competitive in 2030’ (x). This does not come as a surprise with the increased integration of technology into daily tasks across industries, even outside of the usual tech-heavy sectors.

Where will we work?

The traditional workplace is likely to face some pretty significant changes over the coming decade, with an increased push for more flexible working arrangements.

A recent Business Insider article pointed to a dramatic shift in how workers envision their ideal working environments, with the ability to choose their working location trumping other considerations, including pay:

‘By 2025 millennials will represent 42 per cent of the Australian workforce and statistics reveal almost half of them will choose workplace flexibility over pay. This sentiment expands beyond millennials with a recent study revealing 37 per cent of workers would change jobs if they could work from where they want at least part of the time’ (x)

This shift in priorities will likely see a more agile working environment, and a move away from established in-office, 9-to-5 expectations.

How will we work?

Less repetitive tasks

While automation and AI may not totally wipe out our current workforce structure, it will likely cause some disruption to some of the low-level, repetitive tasks currently being delegated to new workers. This could see a reduction in entry-level jobs, or perhaps a shift in what is expected of recent graduates (a shift that, as mentioned earlier, tertiary institutions will have to account for).

For others already in established careers, it could mean a more streamlined work day, with less menial tasks needing to be completed and therefore more time for specialist skill development or training.

(For more information on automation and the rise of AI technology impacting the future of work, check out our article: How the Robot Uprising May Impact Your Career)

More people-skills

This technological increase will also likely see workers completing more creative, communication-driven, or person-to-person work than currently required across many roles.

For those looking to enter the workforce, this will likely lead to employers putting more emphasis on such skills – even in more traditionally analytical areas of employment. As noted by news.com.au: ‘Australians planning to stick around in the workforce beyond the next 13 years can plan on writing and communicating more, and carrying out repetitive tasks a lot less, thanks to automation’ (x).

The rise of entrepreneurship

There is also an increasing push towards start-up culture, self-employment, and entrepreneurship across industry. As of July last year, a third of Australians are ‘either currently self-employed (13%) or considering becoming so in the future (18%)’ (x). As more emphasis is being placed on personal development, individualistic skill acquirement, and self-driven work, businesses may see more of their employees opt for part-time work and an increased demand for training or skill-building.

This move away from traditional forms of employment can also impact recruitment practices, with the gig economy starting to make its move into the more established work environments.  According to Adrian Wicks (vice president of Nvoi), employers will begin to look at hiring specialists to work on a project basis, to supplement their pre-existing teams: “… businesses will have a core central group of people who are mission-critical, and then they will be using skilled professionals on assignment-based work in and around that” (x).

Final note

At the end of the day, many of you will have already started developing the skills and abilities employers will be looking for, and are well-placed for tackling the challenges of the future. Completing an internship, building a portfolio, joining a student society – these extracurricular activities and acts of professional development will stand you in good stead to succeed in the graduate recruitment process.

As Mike Casey, Co-Founder of GradConnection, has pointed out:

“If you study something you enjoy, and get involved in other extracurricular activities, as well as getting some work experience that relates to your degree, it will be held in higher account by generalist graduate programs” (x).


(If you’re worried about your future employability, there are many things you can do to up-skill or increase your confidence – drop by our office for a chat with one of our Recruitment Advisors to learn more).

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash


Author: Mia Casey

Share This Post On