What to study when you don't know what to study

A new report has categorised jobs into 7 unique categories, helping workers know what skills are more important

November 25, 2016
Written by
Simon Munyard
Published by
employment, employable, recruitment, employers, training organisations, work trends, careers, redundancy, study, training, job categories, experience, knowledge, skills, courses, tertiary education, education, recruiters, human resources, job seekers, graduates, full time, part time, casual, gig worker, work from home, contingent workers, flexible workers
What to study when you don't know what to study

Recently a mate of mine, let's call him Mike, was made redundant as the retail store he managed closed down. I asked him what he planned to do next, and he talked about traveling, reading, catching up with mates - everything you would expect.

He also talked about studying. My mate worked in this store for a number of years, many of them as the store manager. The opportunities he has had to study at a tertiary level have been limited, so it seems a natural pursuit now that he has the time.

Mike has a lot of experience in retail, so you would think it would be easy for him to work out what courses he could take to build on his experience. Interestingly, his answer was quite common:

"I have no idea what I want to study."

Mike finds himself in familiar territory. According to Seek.com, almost one quarter of Australians will change jobs within the next 12 months, 18% of those due to external factors like redundancy. A further 33% will change to improve their career trajectory. But knowing which direction to take, and how to get there, can be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to career change.

A new report, titled "The New Work Mindset", by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) has sought to categorise jobs into groups that are similar or related. The purpose of the report is to persuade employers and HR managers of the need to recruit along the lines of skills and knowledge, rather than past experience alone. By categorising jobs, employers could find that workers from a related job within that category could have all of the necessary skills to perform well, despite lacking the experience specific to that job.

For people like Mike looking for a career or education shift, these categories could help them train or apply for jobs within the category of work for which they already have skills, training or experience.

"The portability of skills has important implications for how we think about our careers and provide career education. Many jobs are related and require similar skills. Rather than choosing an occupation with an unbroken path to seniority, a young person could think about developing a portfolio of skills that opens doors to a group or ‘cluster’ of jobs. Rather than asking a young person, what is your ‘dream job’, it may be more useful to ask what is your ‘dream job cluster’?" - The New Work Mindset, FYA.org.au

The report analysed millions of job advertisements, and found that they all fell into one of 7 'clusters of work':

  • The Artisans: require skill in manual tasks related to construction, production, maintenance or technical customer service.
  • The Carers: seek to improve the mental or physical health or well-being of others, including medical, care and personal support services.
  • The Coordinators: involve repetitive administrative and behind-the-scenes process or service tasks.
  • The Designers: involve deploying skills and knowledge of science, mathematics and design to construct or engineer products or buildings.
  • The Generators: require a high level of interpersonal interaction in retail, sales, hospitality and entertainment.
  • The Informers: involve professionals providing information, education or business services.
  • The Technologists: require skilled understanding and manipulation of digital technology.

Often students coming out of high school enter tertiary education through relatively safe streams - e.g., human biology or economics - and then shift within their first year to something more attuned to their preferences. For these students being prepped for tertiary study, or for experienced workers looking for a career change, this list could provide them with a more definitive direction, and allow them to be more prepared when entering the job market than they otherwise might be.

For job and career change seekers, these clusters provide a focus for searching for training and/or job opportunities, possibly opening doors to them that they otherwise might not have considered. Workers need no longer feel restricted by their experience in order to build their career.

For employers, changing the way they think about recruitment will be vital to the growth of our economy, as millennials join a national - nay, global - workforce looking for flexibility. Hiring based on skills and training, rather than experience, will be one of those hard-to-shift ways of thinking for many employers. However, the potential exists to select candidates from an exponentially growing pool of broadly skilled, trained and experienced workers. Employers who are broad-minded enough might find that that experience brought from outside of the proverbial box may lead to more creative and innovative thinking.

Download the full report here.

Read the ABC News summary of the report here.

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