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Guiding Year 12s to consider a 21st century career

11/05/2020 |

Long-term employability matters more than first job earnings

The employment landscape is changing. The skills required for the careers of the future might not be what you think. Now more than ever it is important to guide students with an understanding of what a career in the 21st century looks like.

So, how do you best prepare your son or daughter for what’s to come?
Let’s start with some key insights.

Fortune Cookie 

Leading industries and professions

The Future of Jobs Report 2018 published by the World Economic Forum stated there will be “[f]our specific technological advances: ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet; artificial intelligence; widespread adoption of big data analytics; and cloud technology.” The report also defines new roles that will be required across all industries, including Data Analysts and Scientists, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning Specialists, Digital Transformation Specialists, Sales and Marketing Professionals, Ecommerce and Social Media Specialists, and People and Culture Specialists, just to name a few.

These insights are extremely helpful for a student deciding what careers will deliver longevity and growth in a fast-paced and changing employment landscape. It’s also important for students to not only choose careers based on potential earnings – instead, in a rapidly changing world, one of the leading factors to consider is the growth of an industry. If you choose an industry or profession that is set to grow over the next 10–20 years, chances are these will be the industries where earnings will continue to increase year on year.

Create a practical list of potential majors and work through the most suitable study area.

To address these important questions, you should start by helping your child create a practical list of potential majors they are interested in studying. Then work through the list and outline the ‘pros and cons’ for each course. Do some research and determine if the course they are looking to study is in an industry that is stable or set to grow over the coming years, as this will help steer the decision-making process in a much clearer direction.

Work ethic vs skillset

Careers of the future won’t necessarily be focused primarily on skillset. According to the Global Human Capital Trends survey: “High performing organisations evaluate and hire candidates for attributes such as work ethic, values, and potential as well as for their experience and skills.” The report also identifies that cognitive abilities, complex problem-solving and social skills are also highly regarded by employers and are the most needed capabilities for the future.

The best support you can offer your child is taking the time to learn about their ambitions and values. Are they more analytical or creative? Do they enjoy systems and process? What subjects have been their strongest during school? Your child might want to make a difference in the community, or they might want to become an entrepreneur. Whatever their values, take the time to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, as this can play a big part in the decisions they make when choosing the right course for them. A graduate who finds work that aligns with their values is set to feel more fulfilled and work harder, increasing their value to a future potential employer.

Identify a university’s course model and find out how this can benefit them.

Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre 

Photograph: The University of Western Australia (Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre).

Lifelong learning

With constant disruption and change, consistent learning and upskilling will be something everyone will need to actively seek out and pursue in the future. According to Cheryl Cran, a future-of-work expert and author of The Art of Change Leadership: Driving Transformation in a Fast-Paced World.

The future of careers is very exciting. You can create your own future by seeking the industry opportunities and focusing on being a lifelong learner in order to stay relevant and valuable to all future employers.

This means choosing degrees that boost a wide range of skills and learning. When assisting your child with their choices, consider looking at course structures that offer students the ability to walk away with more than just their primary major. A degree that allows students to obtain skills outside their main area of study through broadening and elective units provides them with a greater breadth of skill and learning.

You have probably heard the term ‘soft skills’; these are the skills that sit high in an employer’s consideration list and include communication, creativity, problem-solving, positivity and being able to deal with high-pressure working environments. Such skills are developed over time and not necessarily purely through students’ dedication to study so much as their involvement and interest in their university and the broader community. For that reason, when choosing a university you should encourage your child to think about extra-curricular activities such as joining clubs and societies, and taking up volunteering opportunities and leadership development activities such as mentoring, internships, networking and using study abroad programs.

take up leadership activities 

Photograph: The University of Western Australia.

Encourage your child to take up leadership activities by joining a club or society

It’s also important to consider our current and future working environments. With emerging factors such as globalisation, it’s becoming increasingly important for students to graduate with a degree that encourages the adoption of an international perspective and who are able to work and operate across boarders with a recognised qualification. While the future of work will inevitably include AI in some form, we will still need people who are able to interpret sophisticated information and apply it in a contextual manner. By diversifying a range of skills and obtaining knowledge through varied sources, your child will become an agile and critical thinker who will be able to respond to complex problems.

Next steps

As a parent, your ultimate goal is to guide and encourage your children as they embark on their chosen career path. This is an exciting time. Support them to choose a career that is tailored to their individual strengths, choose an industry that is set to grow, and they will position themselves for long-term future success. Learn more about the world-class curriculum available at the University of Western Australia.


  • The rise of the social enterprise- 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends
  • The Future of Jobs Report 2018 published by the World Economic Forum

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