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12 September 2016

I am delighted to have this opportunity to connect with you – the first of what I hope will be a regular feature of the alumni newsletter. This month, I’d like to reflect on the role of universities in preparing graduates for the jobs and skills of the future.

We live in an age of instant global communication. A time when technically, if not always diplomatically, collaboration between countries, institutions and individuals has never been easier. Our world is a global ecosystem of interconnected human activity with knowledge the most important resource. In the past, it was all about land, minerals and how much money you could borrow from a bank. Today, the key consumable is Intellectual Property, ideas and what is made of them to create wealth. Knowledge is the ultimate renewable, because rather than being depleted by use its true value comes from being shared with others. 

Much has been said about the changing role of universities in an era of disruptive change, but it is more likely that it will be university generated research that will disseminate knowledge and drive our innovation and productivity agenda. And it is universities that will equip many students with the knowledge and skills necessary for the jobs and skills of the future.

A recent Australian government report suggested that almost 40 per cent of Australian jobs today, were likely to disappear in the next decade or so thanks to advances in technology. As smart machines take over routine manufacturing, we can expect an increasing demand for the kinds of skills machines are not good at, the thinking skills that can’t be codified. Emergent leadership and teamwork, entrepreneurship, intercultural communication, emotional intelligence, on the job experience – these are the skills employers will be looking for and which will drive our future.

Flexibility is important, we should worry less about what the actual jobs are and more about equipping graduates to be thoughtful, entrepreneurial, and forward looking. The world needs an agile, and creative workforce with the skills and capabilities to secure productivity. An entrepreneurial mindset will be important at most levels of education, starting in schools and enduring throughout our working lives. Our spark@deakin program is educating and training aspirant entrepreneurs to have the correct mindset, to acquire the skills to make their path easier.

A decade ago, iPhones, apps, tablets, Facebook and Twitter were yet to burst on to the world. Today it’s Big Data, wearables, 3D printing and the Internet of Things. Deakin now prepares graduates to be app developers and social media managers. And tomorrow?  Machine Algorithmic Designers or robotics lifestyle integration consultants? Deakin has partnered with global virtual reality company EON Reality Inc. to establish the first Interactive Digital Centre Hub in the Asian region. Our partnership with EON reality Inc. will help ensure there are enough VR and AR developers to meet the growing market. 

As Deakin Alumni I’m sure you all keep a watchful eye over your university, as Deakin’s reputation grows so too does the value of your degree. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and please let me know what you see as the major issues we need to consider.

Jane den Hollander
President and Vice-Chancellor

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