The nation president of the Business Council of Australia’s (BCA), Catherine Livingstone gave a speech today calling for the consideration of a broader plan for economic and employment-based development.

Specifically, Ms. Livingstone urged innovation in light of a rapidly changing economy and labour market.

“If 47 per cent of total US employment is at risk of being automated using artificial intelligence, we need to move urgently from a discussion about protecting the jobs of today, to creating the jobs of the future,” Ms. Livingstone explained.

Speaking to the Australian labour market directly, the representative claimed that there were significant gaps between skill sets, training and eventual employment outcomes.

“Precision welders and robotics mechanics will be more useful in the growing advanced manufacturing sector than yet more law graduates for whom there are no jobs,” she claimed.

Despite her clearly business-oriented point of view, Ms. Livingstone attempted to discuss the wider ramifications of a system which over-accentuates formal education and reduces the use of practical learning.

“Here, the philosophical shift is to move from a system which has a rigid discontinuity between education and work, to one which is more of a continuum, enabling simultaneous engagement in education and work for all from Year 11.”

“The discontinuity between education and work was perhaps relevant when, for most, formal education ended at age 15, only 10 per cent of students went on to university and degrees were three years in duration. It is not helpful now, with over 30 per cent of students at university and degrees of four and five years.”

Addressing the way forward, Ms. Livingstone maintains that our efforts should be educational in nature, advocating for a new system that incorporates such real world subjects as computer coding and digital design.

“As it stands in Australia, however, the gap between the digital literacy of our young people and that of our competitor nations is increasing. If we want increased productivity and participation, we need urgently to embark on a ten-year plan to close that gap. This will be essential to tackling structural youth unemployment.”

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