Leader or laggard? WA’s chance to become a global trailblazer and shape the future of work

A new report has identified a unique opportunity for Western Australia to lead the country in response to the changing world of work by leveraging technological know-how from the mining and resource sectors to broader industries.

Undertaken by leading think tank Committee for Perth, The Future of Work report outlines the strategic advantage that WA has accumulated in artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced technologies in the mining and resources sector, identifying a unique opportunity to leverage their application to shape the future of work in Greater Perth and WA.

Developed to equip WA and its people for the changing world of work, the report lists five key findings and outlines two scenarios and makes 22 recommendations that aim to position the State at the forefront of change.

Committee for Perth’s Chief Executive Officer Marion Fulker AM said the report was the culmination of 12 months of analysis that took place during a period of significant and rapid change, reinforcing that future-proofing Australian businesses, government and industries has never been more important.

“While technology has been a consistent driver of change for businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the impact technology has on the future of work. In the face of Industry 4.0, technology has been used as an enabler for businesses and their employees, but through our research, we’ve identified it could also be a displacer of jobs and people,” Mrs Fulker said.

The report recommends a diversification of economy through increased investment in research and development (R&D) including the establishment of centres of excellence where WA has a competitive advantage such as health; renewable energy; space; and agri-tech.

Mrs Fulker commented, “WA’s reliance on the mining industry has meant the State hasn’t adequately prepared for the future of work across broader industries. By leveraging the strategic advantage that WA already has in AI and advanced technologies in the mining and resources sector, we can become a global trailblazer for the future of work. For this reason, the report recommends establishing Australia’s first national research and development hub of artificial intelligence for agriculture; mining; fisheries; forestry; and environmental management within Greater Perth.”

The report also reveals that without widespread reforms of our education system there is a risk that the skills of the current WA workforce may be less suited to work of the future than jobs of the past.

“The largest number of recommendations in the report seeks to address the skills shortage that WA is experiencing with skilled, educated and creative people set to be our most valuable future resource.”

Recommendations in The Future of Work include:

  • Increase State Government investment in R&D to levels that are comparable with that of other States and Territories so that WA isn’t left behind.
  • Update the State’s climate policy to be the leading, most progressive in the country and implement a strategy to grow the renewable energy network across WA.
  • Ensure support services are in place to enable equitable participation in the workforce, including adequate access to childcare or assistance.
  • Reform industrial relations and occupational health and safety legislation so it is up to date with current and emerging forms of workforce and workplace requirements.
  • Prepare workplace policies that ensure equitable access to flexible, agile, and remote work for all people; maximising worker wellbeing.
  • Rethink the role of office space and dispersal of workers and ensure that centralised offices are inviting, sociable and designed to foster collaboration and innovation.

Project Steering Committee’s Chair and Head of Human Resources for BHP’s WA Iron Ore Regina Stene said the report reveals the importance of planning for the implementation of new technologies within human resource departments to support workers in the transition to the future of work.

“This will ensure employees have the skills needed to successfully adapt to current and future opportunities,” Ms Stene said.

“In line with the report’s recommendations, it’s crucial that organisations and sectors collaborate with educational institutions to develop training and education programs that will deliver the future skills needed.”

Mrs Fulker said that The Future of Work report provides WA with a unique opportunity to lead the Nation and pre-empt the challenges ahead to secure a competitive edge on national and even international markets.

Mrs Fulker said that a concerted effort from governments, institutions, the private sector, and individuals is required to effectively implement the report’s recommendations.

Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive Officer at Business Council of Australia supports The Future of Work’s findings as they relate to the future of the Nation.

“Despite 28 years of economic growth and our success managing the economy through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently facing an economic equation that doesn’t stack up. The world is changing around us. Australia finds itself in the cross hairs of several major shifts including the rise of Asia, technological and digital advances, and the global adoption of green energy sources,” said Ms Westacott.

“Applying the recommendations from The Future of Work will support the pressing need to raise our productivity performance. To put this into perspective, achieving a one per cent increase in productivity growth a year through adopting strategies like those recommended in the report would deliver an extra $10,000 in average incomes for Australians over a decade.”