In the lead up to the local government elections, it’s interesting to see the issues people care about here in Mandurah. One of the biggest is local jobs for Mandurah’s youth.
It’s a fair concern. We all want the best for our children, and if possible for them not to have to move away to become gainfully employed. (Side note: There’s still a valid debate to be had as to whether the private sector is more efficient at creating jobs rather than govt, but that’s for another day.)
But new data is showing global trends that, if Mandurah residents pay attention to, could help us to set our youth up very nicely for employability in the future.
For the first time ever, people in the US who did not commute to work at all, but worked from home, earned more money than those who drove to work or took public transport. Those who worked from home earned over $2800 more than those who commuted to work.
The reasons for the new trend seems quite clear. Jobs that can be done from home tend to include white collar and highly technical work. And this work tends to be well paid. The trend is also showing a continued growth in the number of people who are working from home.
When viewed through the lens of this growing trend, Mandurah is actually situated perfectly to position itself as a hub for those who choose to do this kind of work, in much the same way as Mandurah is already a very popular location for those who live the FIFO (fly in, fly out) life. Real estate is extremely affordable, all the ammenities of a large city are on our door step, we have amazing weather, we’re on the coast and have the world’s most beautiful waterways. For most of Mandurah’s suburbs, crime is on par or below places like Perth, Sydney, or Melbourne. And on top of all this we have a train that takes you right to the heart of Perth for the times you do need to meet someone face to face in the city, or visit a legacy office.
I have found over the years that the prestige of an office has grown dimmer and dimmer. As a full time father, telling people I work from home carries absolutely no stigma, and if anything presents a picture of someone who is far more flexible, independent, and can think for themselves.
So what kind of skills should my kids be learning?’
It blows my mind that primary school children are not being taught to code from day one. The skill is far more important than ancient Egyptian history, how to make a papier mâché egg, or mastering heads down thumbs up. But keep in mind that if your child’s school teacher knew much about programming, they would likely be earning twice their current salary with half the stress. So the burden falls on you, the parent, rather than tax payers via the education system, to make sure your kid is equipped for the modern world.
There are countless free and fun software options to introduce your child to the world of programming. Khan Academy has some great options, Apple has some apps for the iPad that are entertaining and educational, and there are lots more that are either free or quite affordable.
Other skills you can encourage that are outside the immediate world of coding include graphic design, video production, game design, and much more.
In addition, traditional fields are seeing more and more ‘work from home’ participants too. Many professionals more or less stare at a screen all day anyway, such as law or accounting, and these jobs in many cases can just as easily be done from the comfort of a home office, versus a cubicle in the Perth CBD.
And if I had to point anyone in the direction of a useful university degree, it would be to consider computer science. It only takes a few minutes on Seek to see how many high paying jobs in the programming space go completely unfilled in Australia simply because we can’t find enough bodies to do the work.
What benefits exist for employers to having staff work from home?
There are plenty of benefits to companies to having staff that work from home. The most obvious is that they can employ anyone from anywhere on earth. Many technical skills needed are highly specialised, and the pool of people in their immediate vicinity who have those skills is likely to be quite small. By expanding their options to anyone on earth who speaks English and has an internet connection, they’re far more likely to find a suitable candidate at an affordable price.
Apart from massive profits, there’s nothing a big company loves more than to virtue signal, and the carbon emissions created by countless vehicles congesting our roadways 5 days a week is one of the biggest offenders. Businesses that don’t allow workers to cut carbon emissions by working from home will soon (rightly or wrongly) be wearing the label of a company that clearly doesn’t care about our planet, and those who move quickly to give workers such an option will be exalted by likeminded folks world-wide.
Nothing is as cruel in the modern age as dichotomy between the pressure on us all to succeed in the work place, and the hard, cold, biological fact that you need to have babies before you’re 35 or the health risks to the child and mother just become unkind.
Having spent some time now being a full time father, I can appreciate how absurd most companies are in their demands that people spend so much time away from the very thing that makes life worth living, namely your children, requiring you have someone else essentially raise them, ostensibly so you can provide for those very children. The irony is that what children really need is time with their parents, not more stuff.
It’s easy to forget this absurdity is only a recent phenomenon, with the invention of reliable contraception and the changing societal norms the new technology has brought, beginning in the 20th century . So it seems only logical that it may take a generation or two for us to figure this thing out.
All that is a long winded way of saying that working from home can truly help bring some balance back into our family lives, which for a company means content staff who are more likely to stick with that employer; and the glue that holds this whole miracle that is society together, i.e. the family, can continue to endure.
What else could stop Mandurah from succeeding in this area?
If Canberra screws up the proposed upgrades to the NBN, companies will not want to outsource a lot of work to our shores. To be fair, most programming requires only a very basic internet connection. But if you’re working on streaming, or need to teleconference with other people, or you need to test complex software or streaming products, a crappy upload speed can really be your undoing. And as video production continues to grow, if the content you product cannot quickly be uploaded, you’re very much behind the curve when it comes to competing.
If our absurd new spying laws aren’t addressed, this might also present concerns for global companies looking for programmers. Laws in Australia that allow authorities to compel staff members to do things without informing their bosses means many companies could get very nervous about employing your child in Mandurah to be a lead programmer on their application. They’re far safer choosing someone in the USA or elsewhere where they don’t face the same risks. While law enforcement certainly need solutions to help fight the scourge of child abuse images and human trafficking, giving up EVERYONE’S privacy is something many companies are simply not willing to compromise on.
Programmers can go and live anywhere in the world they choose. If we keep overdeveloping this region and destroying our environment, it’s going to be hard to keep people here. There are plenty of other concrete jungles and McSuburbs to choose from. We don’t need to be yet another. We need to preserve what makes Mandurah special.
What should I do? I don’t want my kids addicted to devices!
One of the biggest problems with modern technology and kids is not that it’s inherently addictive, it’s that it’s so easy and intuitive to use, one no longer naturally learns the skills needed to build things on the devices by using the devices. Thinking your kids will learn programming simply from using these devices a lot is like someone thinking you’ll become a mechanic if you drive a new car. One can hardly SEE the engine on modern cars, let alone work on them.
If you want to present your kids the opportunities to learn to program, and maybe develop a passion for it, it will usually take some deliberate effort. Use your best efforts to get them in front of an app that actually requires them to build something, and consider trading time on Minecraft or Fortnite as a reward for completing a programming task or goal you’ve set together.
Not every child will warm to the challenge. And far be it from me to advocate making your child do something that in no way aligns with what they’re passionate about. But there are many kids among us who would make wonderful developers if they were presented with the opportunity to play and explore in the field while they’re young.
Automation is only going to continue to increase. Jobs you take for granted today will not exist tomorrow. Jobs you haven’t thought of will become well paying professions. Jobs will continue to be outsourced around the world to anyone with the skills. But in the new world the playing field has been levelled, and there is absolutely no downside to being based in Mandurah. If anything, your kids may just be able to have the best of both worlds… an affordable home in a beautiful location, with a high paying job previously reserved for concrete jungles.