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Upskilling the next generation of business leaders

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Business leaders of the future requires better skill to face constant changing of business landscape

Australia is driving a focus on a technology-driven future in the workplace and in business, right through to STEM education in schools. However, with our literacy levels on the decline, writing and storytelling need to be top of mind for businesses as well as for tomorrow’s leaders.

In our technology-driven world, we are seeing a lot of media hype around the future of work and the implications of automation for service-level jobs. It’s highly likely that in 10 or 20 years’ time, jobs will exist that are unimaginable today. Likewise, jobs that are commonplace today will cease to exist. So how can equip our children with the skills they need to secure future work?

Are technology, automaton, AI and STEM the answer to the future of work?

A Future of Work report by the Regional Australia Institute states that “to remain competitive in the 2030 job market, one in two Australians will need skills in programming, software development and digital technology”. But is the next generation of Australians being taught these skills? What will happen to soft skills that sit outside these areas? Will they be in more demand because of the scarcity?

Historically, Australia has lagged behind the rest of the world in technology and science education. In 2015, we ranked 34th out of 40 countries on the 2015 OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard. This year, in an effort to prioritise STEM in education, the government announced a $6-million STEM program for 100 preschools to receive play-based science, technology, engineering and maths programs by 2018.

STEM is now a focus area for Australia’s education system. While this is a positive development, it does raise the question of whether more ‘traditional’ skills like reading and writing will be less of a focus, or become increasingly digitised for business leaders.

Why literacy and communication skills need to be top of the agenda

Literary levels are on the decline in our education system and are alarmingly just as difficult to find in the workplace. The results from the 2017 NAPLAN tests found that this year, a staggering 16.5% of Year 9 students across Australia were below the benchmark in writing.

There is no doubt that STEM is of vital importance to education and to the future business world. However, we can’t lose sight of the fundamental role literacy plays in business and our children’s future. We must equip the next generation of Australians with strong literacy skills, which they will need to effectively communicate at work and in life.

Whoever tells the best story wins

Across every industry, strong written and verbal communication skills are absolutely crucial to a successful career. Even with the rise of automation and AI, the foundational importance of literary is unlikely to disappear, because a business can’t prosper without quality content and a powerful brand story.

The AlphaBeta job calculator, for example, lists a copywriter in the marketing field as only 20% susceptible to automation. In contrast, a STEM-based job like a biotechnologist is 44% susceptible to automation.

Storytelling is at the heart of a successful career

In marketing, strong literacy skills are essential to telling a meaningful story and engaging emotionally with your audience. This sense of emotional communication and human connection is something that machines simply can’t replace – and these skills will be increasingly sought after in the future workforce and business leaders.

More than ever before, future business leaders will need the ability to tell an unforgettable story – one that reflects their personal brand and aligns with the values of the organisation they work for. It’s through effective communication and creative storytelling that young professionals will differentiate themselves in an increasingly competitive and tech-driven business world.

To build a highly educated workforce and create better job prospects for young Australians, we need to prioritise literacy in education and business. A focus on literacy will not detract from STEM learning outcomes, but rather, equip young people with ability to communicate and ‘sell’ their ideas, innovations and brand stories more effectively in the market as the business leaders of the future.

This article was first published in The CEO Magazine.