NEXT GENERATION – LEVERAGING THE ‘EDGE’
by Kate O’Mara
Skilfully facilitated by national leader in social entrepreneurship and innovation, CEO for the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen AM, RDA Hunter’s NEXT GENERATION is NOW 2019 STEM Workforce Conference brought together 135 representatives from industry, education, government and business gathered in Newcastle on April 9 to discuss next generation technologies and skills.
The changing nature of work, building a homegrown workforce and STEM-skilling were key themes examined by international, national and local keynote speakers, panellists and students from a variety of organisations and sectors.
International think-tank, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) was represented by Paris-based Head of Employment and Skills Unit, Mr Jonathan Barr, who gave the audience a global view of mega-trends in skilling, access to education, place-based policy making and digitalisation.
Siemens’ Head of Human Resources and HR Regional Speaker in ASEAN-Pacific, Ms Nicolette Barnard gave an inspiring presentation about the future – how digitalisation will affect every person and every workplace. In fact, she said it already has. She made the clear and simple point that we’re already living and working with robots – we walk around with them in our pockets and handbags everyday. And she said that although technology will impact certain jobs, the world will see many more millions of jobs created than are lost. Importantly she said resourcefulness is the skill of the future.
An industry panel featuring representatives from the Hunter’s defence prime contractors: BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin Australia, Boeing Defence Australia, as well as NSW Health Pathology and Department of Primary Industry continued the discussion at an industry level. Panellists examined cross-sector information sharing and considered how individual companies could work together to fill the ‘collective workforce well’. Cross sector ‘pollenisation’ was discussed as a way to explore workforce development and industry growth. Exploring sector overlaps could result in future-focused examples of skills development like the shift from ‘sick care to health care’.
We heard from the University of Newcastle’s recently appointed Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO. Professor Zelinsky overviewed his plans for the University which include exciting concepts like an inside-out campus, work-integrated learning experiences and STEM Centre of Excellence. He also discussed a future that features unpacked degrees and PhD industry immersion.
The Conference concluded with an inspiring panel conversation with the Hunter’s young people. The audience was ‘hanging on every word’ as Jan chatted with five representatives from the Hunter’s primary and secondary schools, TAFE NSW and University of Newcastle about their education experience, their hopes and dreams for the future, their ideal workplace environment and what they’d like us as parents, employers and their mentors to understand about them. They were honest, impressive and motivating and their message was simple – they want to be understood. In the words of 10 year old Breanna from Heaton Public School, ‘we just want our parents to understand everything’.
It was a perfect summation of the day and a simple take-away message. “Next Generation is NOW”. In a world where we have robots at our fingertips, where anything is possible, we need to spend time working together – listening and collaborating – so that we work smarter and leverage the ‘edge’ that technology provides.
Look out for more take-aways from RDA Hunter’s 2019 STEM Workforce Conference in coming weeks.
View media coverage of the Conference