Sydney is readying the workforce of the future
A quick Google search will have you believe that your job as you know it will be altered, if not replaced by automation technologies within the next 20 years. With the current pace of the technological revolution – artiﬁcial intelligence, computing power, robotics – and the trends that are accompanying it – startup businesses and delayed retirement– it comes as little surprise we, as humans, are left feeling apprehensive about our future employment prospects, and our value-add in general.
However, BESydney Global Ambassador, David Thodey AO, and renowned startup founder Dean McEvoy, are on a mission to improve our odds.
The workforce as we know it is changing. Specialisation is becoming key, with people developing individual skills in speciﬁc areas so they can operate more independently. Freelancers, consultants, contractors – the Internet is making self-employment increasingly possible. It is reframing the relationship people have with customers and clients, and leading to more ﬂexible working arrangements generally. There is increased potential for lateral career movement, simultaneous study and work, and opportunity to create new roles altogether.
At the same time, there is a movement away from our traditional (and habitual) reliance on single roles, vertical progression, speciﬁc companies and siloed industries. There is overuse of buzzwords like innovation, collaboration and resiliency. And there are a plethora of projections and predictions around what could be instead of what is to come.
In the face of this uncertainty, entrepreneur and startup investor Dean McEvoy is striving to capitalise on the change occurring and increase our collective adaptability. Dean leads a group called TechSydney, whose aim is to build an ecosystem of newly-established technology businesses – businesses that will showcase Sydney’s strengths in the tech industry, but also serve to beneﬁt the community at large.
“The main focus is about making Sydney the ideal place to have a high-growth tech company. We're encouraging entrepreneurs to focus ﬁrst on solving the problems that would help their own companies grow and then advocate for government and the wider community,” he explains.
Similarly eager to embrace change, David Thodey AO is a leading Australian businessman, and is looking to create sustainable employment - one million jobs by 2036 to be exact - as well as opportunity for NSW at large. The former CEO of Telstra is now Chair of Jobs for NSW, a private-sector-led government-backed agency that aims to support business enterprises and create rewarding jobs.
“Yes, I want the jobs. But I want more than that, ” David explains. “I want Sydney to be a place where people feel inspired and grateful and feel like they can contribute to the world.”
Together, these experts are drawing on local talent, nurturing innovation and essentially up-skilling our local community so we are well placed for the future. And, though they are leading separate initiatives, the pair share a vision: the new Sydney Technology and Innovation Precinct.
“You're creating an environment where people feel inspired,” says David. “Be it in the physical environment or in society, people are meeting to talk about ideas and then it becomes a magnet. And, yes the by-product is jobs but it's more than that. It’s about being a thought leader. Being in the midst of where real things are happening.”
“The fast changing pace of technology is only getting faster,” asserts Dean. “And, there’s no course you can do, there’s no online place where you can stay up-to-date and get really in depth knowledge about; how to build a company, how to be innovative, and how to embrace this new technological wave. It’s important for people to get together in real life.”
Thus despite the disruption and the associated angst, David and Dean are incredibly optimistic and there is a general consensus between the two that the inevitably technology-shaped workforce will in fact serve to beneﬁt us.
“Yes, it changes things,” says David. “But it enables things to be done differently and as long as it's creating a better quality of life and that's equally distributed, I think it's really good…Society has this incredible ability to reorient itself.”
“Technology will allow us, as humans, to elevate ourselves,” Dean adds. “To move on to the more interesting things that we want to do and to really focus on solving the problems that matter in this world.”
Dean believes Sydney is a genuine alternative to Silicon Valley, providing the ideal conditions for businesses to succeed. He experienced huge success himself in 2010 when he launched Australia’s ﬁrst group buying site, Spreets.com and sold it to Yahoo7 within twelve months for $40 million.
“You take entrepreneurs with the DNA of just making it happen and you put them in the environment that we have now, which has a supportive government, which has more venture capital coming into the ecosystem, and a pool of superannuation funds that is one of the biggest in the world.”
In addition to the concerted efforts from Government and the private sector, Sydney offers people a chance to have balance and enjoy a very different lifestyle, while still being in an ideal environment to start and grow a business. In fact, this year marked the ﬁrst time the world’s largest startup event, LAUNCH Festival, was hosted in Sydney and not in San Francisco – where it has been for the past 10 years.
The city is investing in human capital. It is equipping its people with the skills and knowledge required to remain employable and to respond to technological change.
“The reality of the jobs of the future is about an ability to solve problems in this world,” Dean summarises. “And that is the promise of automation. It takes away repetitive jobs and dangerous jobs and allows us, as humans, to focus on the things we are more interested in.”
With a world-renowned economy and high education rates, Sydney already has a competitive advantage. This, combined with a strong social fabric and opportunities for conversation and invention, shows we are becoming a team of networked citizens equipped with the tools to learn and lead. Moreover, it makes clear that what is being referred to as the ‘technology takeover’ could also be known as an adjustment phase.
More on the new tech precinct