Teach for Australia Panel Discussion: Future of Work

The Teach for Australia panel discussion event on the ‘Future of Work’ was held last Tuesday night (12th June) at St Catherine’s College, UWA. It was a highly successful and well-received event with around 50 attendees.

Firstly, I’d like to recognise Matt Norman, WA Recruitment and Advocacy Manager for Teach for Australia, who hosted the event. He did a fantastic job of facilitating this fascinating discussion. There were six panellists who shared their ideas about the future of work, expected changes in the workforce and how the audience can actively prepare for these changes. I’d also like to acknowledge St Catherine’s College, specifically Head of College Fiona Crowe and Director of Advancement Mandy McFarland, for providing the venue.

The Panellists

Panellists included Jenny Devine, Nate Sturcke, David Kempen, Keren Caple, Catherine Trigance and I. Each member had a unique, valuable insight into the future of work.

  • ‍Jenny has a wealth of experience in management and leadership. Her current work includes being the Executive Officer at the Fogarty Foundation where she helps young people gain meaningful work and training opportunities.
  • ‍Nate is an expert at entrepreneurship, being the Managing Director of SOMA (Skills of the Modern Age). He is also a mentor for muru-D which invests in technology companies and is a Director at the Founder Institute, the world’s largest entrepreneur training and startup launch program.
  • ‍David is a Campus Recruitment Consultant at PwC and has significant experience in talent attraction, talent selection and relationship management.
  • ‍Keren is the CEO of Innovation Unit Australia which is the innovation partner for public services, providing solutions for complex social challenges.
  • ‍Catherine is a Humanities and Social Science teacher at Hampton Senior High School and a graduate of the Teach for Australia program.
  • ‍I, Conor, am a young entrepreneur who teaches important future job skills to high school students and I’m also studying economics at UWA.

Key Takeaways

The key messages presented by the panel members included the importance of being aware and ready for the changing workforce. With an increased reliance on technology and automation, almost every job will be affected somehow, and some jobs more than others. Jenny shared how many students wanting to do a trade in the future, such as bricklaying, may have to compete with robots that have already been developed. Nate discussed the necessity for all workers to be able to use technology effectively and to be lifelong learners. All panel members agreed that people should focus on jobs that require the most empathy. This is because jobs that require empathy and helping others in an emotional way will be the last to be automated.

A notable question from the audience was: “Do you think our education system needs to change to more effectively prepare students for the future of work?” I suggested that it definitely needs to change because our current model teaches students to regurgitate information for tests rather than thinking for themselves. This ability to think critically and creatively is the most essential skill for the future of work and yet our current education system is not preparing young people for this. Keren agreed, saying that many research papers and books on the topic of the ‘future of work’ suggest that we need to greatly improve our teaching model if young people are going to thrive in the future of work.

Catherine said that the current school model actually teaches students to think creatively and approach challenges in a positive way however the curriculum could be expanded to include more innovative teaching models. David offered the perspective of a student recruiter and said that an individual’s ‘soft skills’, specifically empathy and the ability to work with others, was the biggest predictor of employability and career success.

Overall, many fascinating and diverse perspectives were offered by all panel members and the audience had ample opportunity to question these ideas and also offer their own. It is apparent that the best way to prepare children and young people for the future of work is to ensure they have excellent ‘soft skills’ which include critical thinking, creativity, cognitive flexibility, cross-cultural awareness, enterprise skills, emotional intelligence, literacy, problem solving, negotiation and service orientation. While these skills are more difficult to learn than traditional school subjects, their usefulness is much more substantial. They are best learnt through students undertaking personal projects, working with others and learning about different and diverse cultures. With these skills, no matter what job people do, they will have the required general skills to allow them to thrive and succeed at their careers.

About Me

My name is Conor McLaughlin. I’m a 20 year old student at the University of Western Australia, majoring in Economics and Management. I have been involved in Bloom for over two years now and they have been instrumental in teaching me so much about entrepreneurship and community engagement. Bloom provides workshops on many different topics such as how to brainstorm a business idea, how to pitch your ideas, how to develop the tech skills required to start an online business and other key skills like networking, public speaking and working effectively with others in a team. From these workshops, I decided I could give back to the wider Perth community by creating an interview series called ‘Agents of Change’. 

Through this series, I interview successful entrepreneurs and change-makers in the community to help young people learn these key entrepreneurship skills. Created in January 2017, this series has received over 21,000 views so far. In addition to this, Bloom’s workshops on the ‘lean canvas’ model helped me to develop a start-up business with David Castelanelli in February last year. This business, ‘Futuristic Skills’, teaches high school students the most important job skills of the future through workshops and a series of modules on our web app.

To find out more about either of my projects, you can click on the links below:




About Bloom

Bloom is a community of young people creating amazing things. We provide workshops, co-working space, mentoring and more to accelerate the growth of high-potential young entrepreneurs. If you'd like to find out more, please email community member Brady Flockart: brady@bloom.org.au