Australians conservative and gloomy about job prospects in digital age: report

Robert Holt and Shoukry Marzouk agree their university educations did not prepare them adequately for working life in the emerging digital market. Photo: Luis AscuiYoung Australians are more risk-averse, more pessimistic about their job prospects and have less confidence in their skills than their counterparts in some of our major economic competitors, according to a new report.

The report, Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was based on a survey of 9000 young people in nine countries including the United States, Britain, Germany, France, India and China. It underlines the challenge the Turnbull government faces in its bid to stimulate a more risk-taking economy with its innovation policies.

One thousand Australians aged 16 to 25 were surveyed for the report, which was commissioned by IT consultancy Infosys.

Australians were the most negative about their employment prospects, with only half saying they were optimistic or very optimistic about getting a job in the future. Forty-three per cent of Chinese respondents felt “very optimistic” about their job prospects compared to just 13 per cent of Australians.

Australians also had the lowest level of confidence in their job skills, with just half saying they are confident they have the necessary skills compared to 75 per cent in Brazil and India.

Fewer than 20 per cent of Australians have a strong interest in computer coding or developing mobile apps – among the lowest of any country surveyed.

Less than 4 per cent of Australian respondents said they want to work for start-ups – the sector at the centre of many of the government’s innovation initiatives. Most would prefer to work for established businesses with a long corporate history.

“The findings presented here reinforce wider trend research, which highlights a conservative mindset and risk-aversion among young people today,” the report states.

“Despite public hype and discourse around start-ups and a generation of successful self-starting entrepreneurs, the reality is that young people gravitate towards larger companies that are perceived to offer greater stability, opportunities for development and structured progression.”

Australia also had a high gap in technological competence between men and women, with 48 per cent of men rated as highly competent, compared to 28 per cent of women.

Engineer Shoukry Marzouk, 25, said the job market was “daunting” for many young Australians.

Mr Marzouk, who helped organise the first Australian trial of driverless car technology last year, said it took him three months to find a job after finishing university.

“For graduates it can be hard to find work,” he said. “Companies are usually looking for someone with experience rather than wanting to train someone.”

Mr Marzouk said he was glad his employer has allowed him to undertake postgraduate study while working so he could keep developing his skills.

Innovation Minister Christopher Pyne said the survey showed the government was on the right track with its policies to improve the teaching of digital literacy and expand opportunities for women in science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM).

“However, the Government can only do so much,” he said. “If we are to want to lift the ambition of young Australians, there needs to be a cultural shift, an embracing of taking a chance on creative ideas and lifting the profile of STEM in the community.”

Matt Garbutt, chief of staff at the Business Council of Australia, said the report showed Australia’s education system needs to be more practical with more internship opportunities for students.

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