Young people’s first experience of work is constantly changing. We asked business, government and community leaders in our MFJ 2.0 Working Group where they see first jobs heading in the future. This included what skills they see young people requiring, the types of roles they might be doing and where they might be employed.

Conflicting Views on the Availability of First Jobs 

Working Group members held conflicting views on the future availability of first jobs. Many saw the future availability of first jobs reducing because many of the first or entry-level jobs young people are currently employed in are most at risk of automation. Without direct action from employers to intentionally create new types of first job opportunities for young people, either directly or through supporting social enterprises, these members did not see first job availability increasing.  

Other members continued to see opportunities in the industry’s most likely to hire young people (hospitality and other service roles), but the type of work they might do could change as technology automated aspects of their role and more emphasis was placed on human interaction. New types of first jobs might also emerge that are constantly evolving in line with technology. Members expressed a view that we will no longer have decades of the same jobs, but constant augmentation of the first jobs, as tech automates and accompanies the roles. New technology-enabled first jobs could also expand the idea of access and availability with young people potentially able to apply for jobs in different cities or states, benefiting regional young people where first job opportunities have deteriorated, but this could also mean there is increased competition for roles.  

Finally, Working Group members also saw ‘gig’ and ‘task’ work as an emerging area for first job experiences with permanent full-time employment in first jobs likely to reduce. While there could be benefits to this, such as increasing a young person’s access to jobs beyond their local area, there are risks. ‘Gig work’ enhances the ‘taskification’ of work, making work easier to automate by breaking a job into its component tasks that are divvied up between machines or humans. This process is likely to reduce the shelf-life and utility of skills gained via the platform.  

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

Young people will need access to the latest up to-date information on future employment trends, so they are aware of where first job opportunities exist. If alternative opportunities are being created, such as via social enterprises or ‘gig work’, then young people will also need access to revised career planning information, which shows how those new ways of working can build transferrable skills and can act as a pathway into future roles. Young people will also need to know where to find jobs in a virtual/digital world and how to apply for them. Working in a gig or task-based role also requires a different way of working and career management and young people will need to be equipped with this knowledge.  

Increased Use of AI and Technology in the Recruitment Process 

Working Group members highlighted that digital technology would continue to shape and influence the recruitment process in the future. Recruitment platforms were increasingly using digital technology to filter and screen applicants and make suggestions on candidate suitability. Increasingly, these technologies are being integrated into the interviewing stage to provide feedback on candidate performance. While these technologies create efficiencies for the employer, allowing them to deal with large volumes of applications, there are risks that these systems can promote bias and limit the candidate tool. It can also be difficult for candidates to understand how the technology is being used and its decision-making process, decreasing their chances of applying successfully.   

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

Young people will need to learn how they can signal to employers that they are someone they should meet. They will need support through the recruitment process and to understand how they might be filtered out and the language needed to promote themselves successfully in the application.  

Technical Skills Are Becoming Perishable and a Willingness to Learn and Be Adaptable to Change is More Important 

A crucial insight from the Working Group was the impact of digital change on technical skills. The pace of change in the workplace means many technical or point in time skills a young person might learn in a course or program are becoming obsolete quicker. The Working Group members see work becoming more varied and changing on a regular basis. This means employers will be prioritising young people who are fast learners, flexible and can evolve quickly.  

For employers, a key consideration becomes how they will adapt their hiring processes to allow young people to demonstrate those skills and what value they will place on qualifications. Defining what many of the characteristics mean to an employer, particularly in the context of work, would also help young people to show they have had relevant experiences. Once a young person gains employment, employers will also need to place more emphasis on retraining and redeploying staff to meet organisational needs.  

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

With employers indicating that learning and adaptability will be more important than technical qualifications the challenge for young people will be how they can demonstrate a capacity and interest in learning and self-development. In this environment, qualifications potentially become less about the technical skills gained and more about demonstrating their ability to learn. They will also need to show they can deal with change. Young people will need support in their career education to identify when they have experienced a period of change (at school or in their hobbies) and how they were able to thrive during that moment.  

Work Is Increasingly an Intersection of Technology and People/Human Skills 

Working Group members highlighted that first jobs for young people will increasingly combine technology and nuanced customer (internal and external) servicing. Where front line services can be made more efficient technology will be employed to do this. Instead, people will increasingly work with technology and manage the unpredictable aspects of work that cannot be easily automated. This means there will be an expectation that even when young people are not employed in a direct technology role they will need to have a high level of technology knowledge to better work with a system, add value, and fill in the gaps with that the technology cannot do. 

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

Young people will need to understand a variety of technology principles to demonstrate how they can add value to the system. While young people are often framed as technology natives, they will need to deepen their understanding of emerging technology concepts, such as API’s, online payment systems and cyber security. It will also include a high level of data literacy based on an understanding of how data is captured, stored, secured and used. In addition, young people will need to demonstrate how they can understand the needs of customers and deliver “on brand” experiences. 

Every Employee Requires a Blended Digital and Human Skillset 

With roles becoming increasingly blended between technology and people skills, the Working Group identified that the expectations for young people and their skills are likely to increase. One response highlighted that “I am also anticipating that entry level workers are going to have to be more skilled and more technologically-savvy than ever”. Some members attributed the increased skillset required to decline in first jobs available, meaning competition will be high for those opportunities left and employers will demand more as a result. Others pointed to the rapid technological advances occurring. The expectation will be that young people are digital natives who have higher levels of interpersonal skills that provide a ‘human’ element to the application of technology. This is in addition to the core skills that anyone needs to perform a job well – good communication skills, customer oriented, good decision makers and able to work in pressure situations. 

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

The increased expectation employers will have for young people in first jobs means they will likely need to acquire even more experience than before in placements, work experience or intern roles. Digital and data literacy are also likely to become a standard requirement, much like soft skills. Young people will need support to gain digital skills as well as skills to work (communication, decision-making etc.). While young people may not necessarily need a qualification in digital skills, they will need to expose themselves to opportunities to gain those skills and understand how they can market their native digital experiences, such as using social media.   

Practical Experience is Key 

When the Working Group members were asked where a young person will acquire the skills to gain their first job there was strong focus on practical experiences. This was tied to the Working Group’s focus on young people needing to build their personal and soft skills. Participants indicated that the best way to build these skills was through practical, real world experiences. To achieve this the Working Group saw a need for a greater intersection between learning institutions and employers, from high school through to vocational and tertiary education. In addition, the Working Group also highlighted that it will be necessary for employers to start valuing things like Duke of Ed medals, sport participation, and volunteering because the activities say as much about a young person as actual work experience. 

What Does This Mean for Young People? 

Young people will need to engage in broad based learning that combines formal education, internships and work experience, online courses and self-guided learning. They will also need to seek out a range of alternative opportunities to gain practical experience, such as volunteering or Duke of Ed participation, and then learn how they can explain the benefits and applicability of these experiences to an employer.   

Many of these trends combined, point to a significant increase to the barrier to entry for young people in first jobs. As the job requirements get even harder there may be an inequality in access to first jobs for young people without suitable interventions because those individuals from less advantaged cohorts may find it difficult to access the same opportunities and prepare themselves.   

Read more about our My First Job 2.0 project. 

Interested in helping young people succeed in employment? Contact Us. Want to read the rest of our My First Job series? Click here.