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How to prepare for the future of work

14 July 2017
Design a study plan that suits your tastes, interests and goals

Our undergraduate curriculum provides the flexibility and choice that will set you up for a career you haven’t even thought of, yet.

As we all know, not so long ago, the world was a very different place.

Take something as simple as watching a TV show or movie.

Just to find out what was on you would have to buy the newspaper and thumb through the meagre listings of the five channels that made up the local TV guide.

You’d also have to make sure you were home to watch it, or find a blank VHS tape to record it. Or you could trawl through the shelves of your local video store (and then pay a late fee after forgetting to return it on time).

These days – à la Netflix, YouTube, playback TV, you name it – things are very different. You can create your own personal viewing guide that suits your own tastes and interests. Watch the latest movie. Catch a whole series of your favourite show. Taste an episode or two of another. Choice and flexibility is what it’s all about.

The future of work will be different

Today the way we work is different too. The decline of the nine-to-five office job has been well documented. ‘Bundy’ clocks and 50-year-service gold watches have been replaced by careers that not only traverse the globe, but a menagerie of areas and expertise.

The World Economic Forum estimates that young people will change careers at least seven times in their lives, and 35 percent of the skills required today will be different in five years.

The Committee for Economic Development of Australia estimates that improvements in computer power and technology – think robotics, big data and the internet – will have a profound impact on future employment, with almost 5 million current jobs in Australia becoming obsolete by 2030.

That doesn’t mean those jobs won’t be replaced. But it does mean the jobs and careers of the future will be very different from today.

It also means universities need to respond in kind: including the way we teach and the way we learn, says University of Sydney Deputy-Vice-Chancellor (Education) Pip Pattison.

“The world is changing, and the way in which people work together is changing, so university education needs to change as well,” Professor Pattison said. “Our undergraduate curriculum will provide students with a broader range of skills to take advantage of a world full of new possibilities.”

That means offering more choice and flexibility when it comes to study options. Something like your own personally designed viewing guide. Choose your primary field of study, but also try other disciplines that suit your own tastes, interests and goals.

Choose from a shared pool of majors and minors

"It’s designed to give every student the capabilities and agility they will need to thrive in the future world, by providing deep expertise in a chosen primary field of study, but also access to multiple forms of cross-disciplinary learning by introducing a shared pool of more than 100 majors and minors," Professor Pattison said.

This provides the opportunity to explore a wide range of study areas within a range of degrees, including:

  • Arts and Social Sciences
  • Commerce
  • Computing
  • Economics
  • Science
  • Visual Arts.

The new combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies is a good example. The four-year combined degree allows you to focus on a primary area of study, while combining studies from a range of disciplines.

It also lets you complete a second major, and build on your expertise with advanced coursework and project work.

The new four-year Bachelor of Advanced Computing offers the flexibility to combine computing with another passion.

By choosing a second major, Bachelor of Advanced Computing students can add skills in disciplines from as diverse as music and languages to finance, food science and design.

You might want to combine software development with music and revolutionise sound production; or specialise in computational data science and genetics and genomics, and help fight antibiotic-resistant viruses.

Sydney alum and Senior Data Scientist at online design group Canva Tiny Pang (BIT(Hons) ’15 BSc ’15) said areas such as data science were being applied to more problems across many industries.

"Having a specialisation in other fields and combining it with programming and data science will produce innovative businesses and projects we couldn't imagine or comprehend today," Ms Pang said.

More opportunities for cultural and global exchange 

The new curriculum also provides more opportunities for students to study internationally and build skills to work effectively in intercultural settings, and aims to increase the number of students undertaking some of their study abroad to at least 50 percent.

Bachelor of Arts student Cameron Hunter, who is majoring in Chinese Studies and Government and International Relations, was given the opportunity to go on exchange to Copenhagen and then again to Beijing as a Westpac Bicentennial Foundation Asian Exchange Scholar.

“The exchange experience was an amazing opportunity to network, gain work experience and visit incredible places virtually inaccessible to people without Chinese language skills,” Mr Hunter said.

Students will also be encouraged to take part in workplace initiatives and community, industry and research projects.

One such initiative is the University’s service learning program, which provides innovative learning and teaching opportunities that solve real challenges being faced by Australian communities.

As part of the program a group of students from various faculties recently travelled to Kakadu, the Tiwi Islands and far west NSW to begin work with Aboriginal communities on critical projects the communities had identified.

In Kakadu, students worked on a shared decision-making model for the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which will become the cornerstone for future governance.

Final year Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Civil)/Bachelor of Science student Kate Dean, who worked on the model, said she wanted to contribute to a community project and learn new skills that she could apply to a future job.

“This project allows me to apply my cross-disciplinary knowledge to broaden my understanding of how to approach and tackle a project,” Ms Dean said.

Offered as a unit of study, service learning projects contribute to existing degree programs as well as four-year combined degree programs with the Bachelor of Advanced Studies from 2018.

Find out more about the Sydney Undergraduate Experience and how you can design your study plan for a job of the future.

Sydney Ideas discusses the future of work

Join us for a special Sydney Ideas event The Future of Work featuring three of our leading interdisciplinary minds, including:

  • Innovator, researcher and educator Dr Sandra Peter on the future of business
  • Chair of Design at the School of Architecture Associate Professor Martin Tomitsch on the role of design in shaping the interactions between people and technology
  • Dr Nicky Ringland on the digital technology and computer science skills that all graduates need
  • CEO of StartupAUS Alex McCauley on how the next generation of startups need more than tech skills.

Find out more about the speakers or register now.

This event is part of the University of Sydney Innovation Week 2017 that will bring together staff and students involved with ground breaking discoveries and transformative inventions to celebrate and share how we are changing the world.