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Preparing for a future ready Auckland: Unpacking The 2019 Future Ready Summit

Some of the most distinguished minds on the future of work came together with Auckland employers, industry, education providers and youth, for an educational and interactive day at the Future Ready Summit 2019.

The Future Ready Summit examined current and future workforce trends, so Auckland businesses and people can become future-ready in the face of technological disruption, changing skills needs and new ways of working.

Hosted by the lively futurist Dave Wild, who believes the best way to predict the future is to be the ones creating it, this year’s summit was fully subscribed, with 250 people in attendance to gain practical advice from the insights and experiences of leading experts, case studies and panel discussions.

Broadly, speakers highlighted Auckland’s quickly growing population growth, which as the fastest region in New Zealand is expected to exceed 2 million people by 2031. This surge in population will naturally result in job growth, even if we don’t change how we operate, but to build economic adaptability, productivity, and resilience there is a need to harness technological disruption.

One presentation pointed out specific industries bound for job growth, particularly construction, where 56,000 new jobs are set to take hold, as well as healthcare and education.

Another showcased ‘skills you need to thrive in the future’, a growing list featuring the importance of cognitive flexibility and creativity in the workforce – the fastest growing skills in the workforce, according to Wild.

Refreshingly, though, the conversation shifted from hazy generalisations about the future of work, to specific issues set to face Auckland. For instance, Xavier Black and Anna-Jane Edwards, social intrapreneurs at The Southern Initiative, spoke of linking qualification industries for young Māori and Pacific people in west and south Auckland. A complicated issue, as automation is predicted to first take hold of typically low-paid jobs, which are most prevalent in lower socio-economic areas.

The speakers were distinctly diverse, each offering different perspectives on the future of work. For example, Sir Stephen Tindall spoke about the need to shift away from discussions about jobs being taken away from people, and rather focus on what industries are prepared to move and be agile.

Hours later, a group of young students took to the stage, offering sophisticated takes on the future of work, where they called on schools and educators to step out of their silos and connect with wider businesses and communities.

Other speakers in the stocked line-up, included Sarah Hindle, general manager of Tech Futures Lab and expert on how to develop human potential in the digital economy; Justin Durocher, robotics process lead and continuous improvement analyst at Auckland Council, who shared learnings from the organisation’s automation journey; and Nick Mackeson-Smith, learning enablement lead at Spark New Zealand, who proposed training is dead and that to succeed in the future of work era we must embrace life-long learning.

Subsequently, this year’s summit involved Auckland’s youth, creating a conversation between employers and the workforce of tomorrow, and empowering the next generation of leaders.

Pam Ford, general manager of economic development at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), which developed and hosted the Future Ready Summit, says the future of work is a hot topic around the world but it needs to be examined and planned for at a local level.

“Auckland’s workforce is ageing, with longer life expectancy and better health care creating opportunities for older people to engage in work.

“At the same time, Auckland’s rapidly growing population is young and diverse, with nearly 40 percent born overseas and young Māori and Pacific people representing over a third of Aucklanders aged under 24 years.

“This mix is unique to Auckland, so when considering how to best prepare a city for the future, it’s not a case of applying a one-size-fits-all approach.”

This year’s summit offered additional insights with the release of research findings on Auckland’s future skills needs and an associated insight paper, Future Ready Auckland: Driving economic development through technology and transformation.

“As Auckland’s economic development agency, ATEED’s goal is to ensure quality jobs for all Aucklanders,” says Pam Ford.

“When our initial work estimated that more than 270,000 jobs in Auckland will be changed by automation, we set out to better understand the region’s future skills needs and how technology will change workforce skills and requirements.

The research revealed that while Auckland’s employers and industry are enthusiastic about the opportunities that emerging technologies create, many are not adopting available technology due to insufficient capability to scope, procure and implement new technology; limited understanding from organisational leaders and governance; and budget constraints associated with the scale of investment required.

Pam Ford says, “The research findings are somewhat concerning because it’s vital Auckland businesses understand the future is happening now.

“The benefit of the Future Ready Summit is that it provides a forum to foster connections between those already preparing their workplaces and workforces for the future and those that are just starting out and seeking guidance on their future ready journey.”

While the summit and research are specific to Auckland, Pam Ford says understanding the region’s future readiness has wider benefits.

“As New Zealand’s largest city, both in terms of population and size of the economy, Auckland’s economic performance has a significant impact on the economic success of the nation.

“Our region’s future prosperity, and ultimately New Zealand’s, will be determined by how Auckland prepares for and adapts to technological transformation and workforce changes.”

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