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Faced with global transformation, regional communities can respond in decisive ways

Faced with global transformation, regional communities can respond in decisive ways

Published:08 August 2017

Professor Julian Teicher.

The global transformation we are witnessing will not unfold in identical ways in every location and regional communities can respond in decisive ways.

That’s according to a CQUniversity workplace and human resources specialist, Professor Julian Teicher, who was guest speaker for a Bundaberg Regional Youth Hub dinner event this week.

Professor Teicher noted that we are living in an era in which technological change seems to be occurring at an unparalleled pace, with society being radically transformed.

"If you sit on a train today almost every person, regardless of their age, will be toying with or working on a handheld device and in most cases they will be on the internet," he says.

"Fast backwards 20 years and most people would be reading a newspaper or a book or maybe listening to a CD player.

"While these transformations appear to be radical, we judge them from within our very limited lifespan.

"Are we really in a position to conclude that the advent of the steam engine was not as revolutionary in its impacts on society as was the information revolution?

"At the present time there is an increasing volume of research and analysis on the topic of the future of work and multiple scenarios abound.

"What is most remarkable is the number of experts and think tanks who seem to see the future of the economy and society and the associated structures of business and employment with absolute clarity.

"By the very nature of technological and social processes of change we cannot know the pace and direction of change with any precision, nor can we account for what Donald Rumsfeld called ‘unknown unknowns’.

"Proceeding with caution then we can see that information technology is bringing about dramatic change to the way we live and work.

"For the most part, these changes do not involve the disappearance of specific jobs but rather one of two things occur: existing jobs change their skill configuration and requirements and in some cases new job titles emerge.

"So while the job of an accountant remains but is very different today to 20 years ago we have new titles like digital marketer. While these are quite prosaic labels, the point is that we need to look at the detail to understand what a job is and whether it is new or just evolving.

"When we move to the situation of Australia and regional locations such as Bundaberg we have to take account of a different set of considerations and concerns.

"In some parts of the country, population has been in decline or has grown only slowly. The industrial transformation that we have been considering has seen the closure of traditional businesses, whether maintenance of agriculture machinery or small metal fabricators. These things erode local economies and in particular reduce the opportunities for young people and, to the extent that this occurs, it further erodes the economic and social base of the region.

"In responding to these changes it is necessary to recognise that the global transformation we are witnessing will not unfold in identical ways in every location.

"Indeed, if there is one thing we can learn from industrial development in continental Europe it is that countries and even locations within these countries with similar resource endowments can experience quite different trajectories of industrial development.

"The reasons for these differences are not fully understood by researchers but it is reasonably clear that the nature of government policy and the agency of individual communities in responding to challenges are decisive. This is a key lesson for Bundaberg and Wide Bay more generally.

"When we turn to consider how to create and sustain employment in areas with entrenched economic and social disadvantage, there can be no escaping the responsibilities of government at federal and state level to provide for regional development.

"But we need also to consider emerging opportunities; sadly protection and regeneration of the Great Barrier Reef is likely to sustain an ever-increasing workforce with a wide range of skills.

"Similarly the changing demographics of the region predict that there will be an increasing need to provide services to older people in areas as diverse as home maintenance, health care and recreation.

"In the final analysis, it is not possible to enumerate the full list of opportunities and occupations as this is more a matter for the community stakeholders.

"What is clear however is that the emerging jobs are likely to involve service delivery and they are likely to require a mix of social and technical skills.

"Fortunately the dirty and dangerous jobs will increasingly be mostly performed with the aid of technology - that much is already clear."

Professor Teicher – the Deputy Dean (Research) for CQUni’s School of Business & Law – was just one of several inspirational speakers at this week's ‘Collaboration for a Brighter Future Dinner’.