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What role will technology and digital industries play in shaping the future of our regional workforce?
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Novel technologies pose significant threats to the workforce status quo. Retail customer service and truck driving are two industries that will soon face significant reductions due to the adoption of new forms of automation. Retraining and finding alternative jobs for these workers will prove to be incredibly difficult, as will the management of the societal fallout as a result of widespread unemployment. Policymakers across the globe must lay the legal foundations to mitigate the inevitable damage of this revolutionary social shift.
During COVID-19, working from home became popularised. This was facilitated by technology that allowed students and colleagues to connect with each other via video call and message all around the country and world. Living like this for the past year and a half has greatly shifted attitudes towards the future of work.
More and more, it is being recognised that technology has a large role in facilitating work. This has its benefits and downsides. It can create cross-cultural connections when colleagues from all around the world can collaborate digitally. But it also risks isolating those without access to technology and furthering the 'digital divide'.
The future of our regional workforce would not be the same as it is now neither would appear to be from how we perceived it, following the continuous innovation and rapid adaptation to digital technologies. I see technology having a unique characteristics of being constant as change of which offers limitless possibilities. Surely, it plays a huge role in shaping the future of our regional workforce but the extent of which would vary depending on how we choose to employ it.
There is a scene in the recent K-Drama entitled "Start-Up" that I find relatable to this subject that shares a touching insight. It is an argument that is likely discerned to represent the proposition of the youth and the adult concerning technological advancement. The message is quoted as: Youth: Why attack me when your son has chosen the exact same path?
Adult: You're right. My son has chosen the same path. If everyone in this world is like you and my son, this world would quickly become an innovative place. But it's never good to move too fast. That speed can hurt many people. We'll see a lot of people lose their jobs, unable to adapt to the changes. We need people like me to slow things down a little. To help the right pace that allows people to adjust and live. And to find that pace, I will continue to fight. My son has chosen a path that is different from mine. He has his own life, and so do I. My son will march forward to the future, and I will fight to protect my present. Somewhere between the two, we'll find the ideal place of innovation. In sum, the role of tech shall emanate from the shared perspectives of different generations.
As with every advancement, they will create new kinds of jobs while eliminating or reducing jobs that may still be necessary. While early adopters and the technically-able group will enjoy the development of tech, the technically unable group and those who are disadvantaged will not be feeling the same about this. From where I come from, I view this having a smartphone, an internet connection or a laptop is a privilege that many of my fellow countrymen do not have. Thus unequal access to technology will not solve the problems we have today, it will just be the same problem in a different generation with different technology. Unless we can figure out a way to solve this fundamental problem with technology being inaccessible, we will be able to truly answer the change we will see.
The direct answer to the question is that the workforce will surely be more advanced, but the unfavorable status quo will not change.
Otherwise, the same problem, different generations, will persist.
I think that further technological development will create new standards of job accomplishment and productivity. As we have seen today, most schools, companies, and organizations have to swiftly transform their working protocols and environment completely online because of the pandemic, which has tremendously transformed how we work and educate ourselves in the future. While this has brought positive impacts on how we work (e.g., we can work remotely and adjusting to our schedules better as long as we keep up with deliverables), we must also consider some challenges that we still do not know yet how to answer. If we continue to transform work and school remotely, how do we define working hours? How do we define deliverables indicators and KPIs as we work remotely? How do we ensure that educational materials and goals are attained and soft skills are adequately developed if kids are educated remotely? I think that answering these questions will be a great challenge for our generation and honestly, I think it's exciting to figure out.
The pandemic has undeniably accelerated the shift to greater reliance to technology and the pace of digital transformation. However, this rising reliance on technology is not equivalent to the rise of digital skills among the people, creating gap in such skills among workforce. Not only the current pool of workforce unable to meet the rising demand of tech-savvy workers in the near future, there is currently a huge possibility of unemployment awaiting workers with little to no digital skills.
It is easy for employers to hire people already equipped with necessary digital skills, but it does not necessarily bridge the digital skills gap among workforce. There needs to be a comprehensive strategy made by not only the government, but also non-state actors, to address this issue. It is still a huge question for me on whether ongoing training programs on digital skills are significant to narrow the gap, and the role of non-state actors, especially businesses, in closing the loopholes. Looking forward to hearing from everyone.
Technology and digital industries will play an instrumental part of the future of our regional workforce. Through the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen a mass decentralisation of the white-collar workforce with the uptake Zoom and other video-conferencing software making remote working possible. Being able to work from home is in many cases no longer seen as a special consideration, but just a normal part of a job. This poses significant opportunities for our regional workforce, as we can further engage with workers who do not work in the town, city (or even the country) which the job is located.
Personally, I am excited to see where this opportunity takes us. As a young Australian, I face an unsustainably growing housing market in our capital cities (with the worst in Sydney and Melbourne) which is pricing many young people out of the housing market entirely. With the rise of remote working, I am extremely excited about the possibility of being able to have a remote job previously based in a capital city, which would allow for living outside of out capital cities.