The right tertiary qualifications can open up a world of career prospects. Photo: istock photos
Do you have a plan B? I'm not talking about your disaster escape plan but an alternative career plan if things in your current industry go pear-shaped.
There are some major structural changes occurring in many industries at the moment - media, finance, retail and manufacturing to name just a few - and many of us employed in those industries are hurriedly examining our options.
The idea of transferring to a growth industry from a shrinking one is also attractive for people who are tired of watching their budgets and personnel numbers shrink by the day.
The national client manager at ManpowerGroup Australia, Michael Sacco, says there are many areas in which there are talent shortages, and both employees and employers looking to fill those gaps need to focus on ''teachable fit".
What this involves is, in cases where applicants may have 70 per cent of the relevant skills for a job, their prospective employer may get involved with teaching them the remainder.
For employees, it means working out the industries where some of their skills may be applicable and endeavouring to find the right training to fill the gaps. Or you could consider a total retraining exercise and go back to university.
It may seem like a time-and-money-consuming exercise, but our table on Page 72 shows that you could be better off in the long run.
WHERE TO LOOK
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) forecasts outlooks for the majority of occupations. You can check out the outlook for any career here: joboutlook.gov.au/pagesalpha.aspx. In its analysis of occupations set to grow over the next five years it has drillers, miners and shot firers at No.1 with a five-year growth rate of 27.7 per cent.
Incidentally, according to the DEEWR, ''shot firers assemble, position and detonate explosives to break or dislodge rock and soil or to demolish structures''. Mining engineers come in a close second with a growth rate of 23.5 per cent. Medical practitioners also feature in the top 20, as do a lot of care-based workers such as registered nurses (20.5 per cent), carers of the aged and disabled (20.4 per cent), and social workers, health and welfare services managers and childcare staff - all on 16 per cent.
The occupations that are forecast to contract over the next five years include product assemblers (minus 22.7 per cent), caravan park and camping ground managers (minus 19.3 per cent), plastics and rubber factory workers (minus 18.3 per cent), paper and wood-processing machine operators (minus 18.6 per cent) and printing assistants and table workers (minus 14.6 per cent).
If the industries that are falling are those dependent on old-school technology and transitioning to the web, then by default IT is also set to rise, according to Sacco.
''Digital is a $100 billion industry and it's only going to continue to grow and evolve,'' he says.
''Social media and cloud technology - now there is heavy, heavy demand for people in these areas.''
Because there have been lower enrolments in these courses at tertiary institutions, those already
in the sector have significant bargaining power, according to Sacco.
At the University of Technology, Sydney, it appears students have been catching on with the demand for IT skills.
The senior deputy vice-chancellor, Professor Peter Booth, reports that enrolments in UTS's technology-related courses are on the rise.
''Over the last few years there has been a good recovery of IT,'' he says.
Not surprisingly, engineering has also been strong at UTS, something the University of New South Wales director of student recruitment, admissions and scholarships, Shane Griffin, reports is robust at his institution, too.
''If you look in the engineering space, we've had some pretty strong growth in chemical engineering over the past five years - and petroleum engineering,'' he says.
''Although petroleum and mining engineering are programs where we don't take hundreds and hundreds, they have both experienced strong growth.''
In terms of career opportunities, it's the percentage of graduates working in their chosen professions that is a real indicator.
The table to the right shows just that for a select number of courses. It is the percentage of bachelor-degree graduates working full time as a proportion of those available for full-time employment, and is sourced from Graduate Careers Australia's annual research on graduate destinations.
Who wouldn't want to be a mining engineer graduate, with an employment rate of 97.3 per cent? Graduates in that field were still enjoying a high employment rate in the early 1990s during that decade's recession.
The trends in business studies, accounting and economics are interesting, too. While they were all 90 per cent or more in the 1980s, they have all dropped since then and were all less than 80 per cent last year.
Visual/performing arts has the lowest graduate employment rate, with just 52.5 per cent of graduates working in their field as a percentage of all graduates last year.
Although the employment rate of graduates in education may not appear so great, there are often special factors that mean one industry might be set for growth. Early childcare teaching appears in our tables as a possible retraining option. In terms of salary and our return on investment calculations, it may not appear that attractive.
However, due to recent regulatory changes and increases in funding, IBISWorld is tipping preschool education as an industry to grow by 26 per cent this financial year.
IBISWorld believes that the government's universal access policy will increase demand for the services.
The chief executive at peak body Family Day Care Australia, Carla Northam, reports that while the average salary for childcare workers may appear lower, those with qualifications enjoy a better career trajectory - and many educators earn six-figure salaries.
She says the recruitment of quality specialists in the field is needed across the country.
''Family Day Care Australia is supportive of all family day-care co-ordination units in their recruitment of quality educators,'' Northam says.
''It is essential to ensure that all parents have access to quality childcare options to meet their working needs.''
WHAT TO DO
For those just starting out, it's important to have an understanding of what's going on in the real world. Just because law seems to be an esteemed profession, it won't mean much when you're one of the 17.3 per cent of graduates in that field who can't get a job.
Manpower's Sacco calls for better co-ordination between governments, schools and industry so that people have a better idea of their career prospects once they do obtain a certain qualification.
''In terms of schools, there is a need for more awareness of what's going on in the workplace - not just now but in the future.''
But if this is your second time around and you're doing a stocktake on your career path, you need to focus on upskilling or adding skills.
''For a while now we have been implementing initiatives around training solutions, supporting job applicants - a lot of this training is across broad-based business skills,'' Sacco says.
The company is also working with government and federal initiatives to provide upskilling and teachable fit options. National and international surveys have Australia as one of the countries set to experience a talent shortage over the next years - and even decades.
A report by Oxford Economics in partnership with Towers Watson found that Australia will be suffering a major talent deficit in 2021. A ManpowerGroup survey also found that last year 54 per cent of employers in Australia reported difficulty in filling jobs, with that number only dropping slightly to 50 per cent this year.
So the jobs are there, it's just a matter of finding them and making sure you are appropriately qualified.
Interactivity of media fascinates
ROB BlANCH is a 27-year-old from Wollongong, and a first-year part-time communication and media-studies student at the University of Wollongong.
Rob is working in management for a large fast-food chain - and we weren't the first to tell him that journalism is a dying industry.
''It sounds really illogical but, honestly, it isn't,'' he says.
''I'm hoping to pursue [it] down a number of avenues. Government is one, counter-intelligence is another or the alternative is going into media-liaison roles.''
He doesn't rule out journalism, but knows it is a difficult career path.
''I would love to be a journalist -but I'm just really realistic,'' he says.
At the University of Wollongong, Rob is enjoying being taught by teachers and lecturers with real-life experience - one of his tutors works for Vogue - and says what he is learning is fascinating.
After completing high school he started a commerce degree, which he never finished.
''Comparing the two, journalism is so interactive and so fascinating in that there are so many facets to the degree,'' he says.
''I got to hold a press conference in front of 200 students and I'm getting to do a blog. So I'm focusing on the writing aspect as well.''
But he also stresses the importance of an understanding employer, for anyone wishing to study and work at the same time.
Rob, like many mature-age students, has discovered that a few years in the workforce has made him understand the importance of education.
But it has also revealed to him which areas he is truly interested in. He says once he found a specialty he liked, study became almost a joy.