Institute for Glycomics researchers||||Professor Mark von Itzstein

We Are Scientists: Jobs of the future in demand at Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct

Kathy Kruger | February 2018

Asia Pacific’s emerging innovation hub, the Gold Coast Health and Knowledge Precinct (GCHKP) will generate demand for high-tech jobs that are only just being imagined, with a new report highlighting the exciting career prospects, talent pipeline, and the new qualifications required.

The study, by KPMG and commissioned by the GCHKP project office, together with Study Gold Coast, found the smart career money is on interdisciplinary skills combining science, engineering, digital design and the creative use of big data and artificial intelligence (AI), and applying it with business smarts to develop the latest health and industrial technologies, representing a new way ahead for the city’s economy.

As medicine gets increasingly specialised and personalised, any job with a BIO speciality – including biotechnology, biomedical engineering and bioinformatics, will be a sure bet.

KPMG found that companies often want niche skills, including experience working with specific industry platforms, systems and equipment, while qualifications still tend to be more generic, with the opportunity to develop tailored short courses in particular.

Companies are also seeking PhD level qualifications in science and engineering, and whilst these are increasing quite rapidly on the Gold Coast, there’s further demand for more qualified graduates, a sign of the city’s maturing economy and a global demand for increased specialisation.

The report was commissioned to establish the pool of available talent for global companies seeking to locate to the 200-hectare Precinct, and proactively develop emerging skill sets.

GCHKP Project Director Di Dixon says the report presented a great opportunity to match supply of graduates with demand from the international employers who will invest in the Precinct, as well as link to the existing global expertise already here.

Griffith University Gold Coast has seen a 30% increase in higher degree research students from 2012-15, which is great as there is clearly demand globally, and increasingly locally,” Ms Dixon says.

“KPMG found that broad qualifications in Engineering, IT and can be tailored to provide more niche knowledge and skills that employers are looking for, through specific majors.

The report recommended that there is also scope for micro-credentials, or associate degrees that bridge the technical gap, and which are shorter, cheaper and more vocationally-focused on local industries.”

3D printing is transforming medical and industrial design

Specialty areas of demand include computer programming, statistical analysis/data visualisation, actuarial science, digital design and 3D printing, medical imaging, biomedical engineering and clinical physiology. In general STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based qualifications, along with creative and business qualifications that support innovation, will be in higher demand.

Anticipating these trends, the City’s universities and TAFE are already responding – as examples,TAFE will introduce a new qualification in cybersecurity, while Griffith introduced a new Computer Science degree in 2015, the only one of its type in Queensland, and offers a drone-focused engineering major from this year. Griffith is the top ranked university in South East Queensland for student satisfaction and teaching quality for engineering and top three in Australia for IT, according to the Good Universities Guide.

Electrical and biomedical engineering are growing areas of demand

At the PhD level, specialisation brings exciting global job opportunities – Dr Jason Konrath is now working in the Netherlands for Xsens, arguably the world’s leading innovator in 3D motion tracking technology, after completing studies and research under Griffith’s internationally-renowned expert in biomechanical science, Professor David Lloyd.

Dr Konrath’s R&D focus at Xsens, under a prestigious Marie Curie Fellowship, is developing wearable sensors to track and treat osteoarthritis in the knee – utilising his high-level knowledge in human movement, engineering and data analysis.

“It certainly is an exciting time for the field of biomechanics, as we are now able to perform very accurate movement analysis outside of the laboratory,” says Dr Konrath.

“As long as people desire to be injury free, I am investigating ways to help them achieve this. So this involves being on top of the science and ahead of the game. In fact many elite sports organisations now realize from a cost perspective, that injury prevention programmes are equally as important as the signing of a star player.”

Leveraging experts like Professor Lloyd, such specialised jobs will increasingly be available within the GCHKP, where the co-location of the university campus with the world-class Gold Coast University Hospital (GCUH) and the brand new Gold Coast Private Hospital offers the critical mass needed to attract international companies, innovative start-ups and some of the best global talent. Griffith’s proposed Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT) will significantly lift industry engagement and support a strong talent pipeline in 3D printing and advanced manufacturing.

In a future when skills like computational thinking, programming and prototyping will be highly valued, soft skills like communication and interpersonal skills and problem-solving remain sought after too, according to KPMG. Agility is also prized, especially in fields of new technology development.

Dr Brent Richards is Medical Director of Innovation at the GCUH, and is leading a charge for the application of AI in healthcare, including through the establishment of the not-for-profit IntelliHQ innovation hub.

A recent NY Times article claimed there are only around 10,000 people in the world with the highest-level of skills in AI that are now in growing demand in just about every industry – in Silicon Valley even recent PhD graduates are said to be commanding upwards of $US300,000 per annum.

Strategic global IT experts Gartner speculate on the rapid changes in the workforce that are giving rise to the new role of Chief Robotics Officer, to jointly manage the functions of employees (HR) with smart machines (engineering and IT).

Dr Richards believes that as demand for data scientists grows, 10 people for each scientist will be needed to support analysis and apply the data in order to improve and change processes in healthcare and other industries – people with what he calls translation skills.

“The skills that are most needed are intellectual curiosity and the ability to dive deep to discover new knowledge, as well as flexibility to move into different areas and to ‘unlearn’ old ways of doing things,” Dr Richards says.

“Traditional degrees will still be required for basic knowledge and professional accreditation, but niche skills and programming knowledge, including through online industry-delivered courses, will be increasingly important, along with collaboration and communication skills to support the start-up environment and industry disruption.”

Griffith Biomedical engineering Phd candidate Meg McConnell was supervised by Dr Richards during her workplace placement at the GCUH, and is working on a predictive analytic tool using heart rate variability data to assess intensive care patient recovery rates.

“I wasn’t really aware of the future opportunities when I started studying civil engineering, which is a much more traditional field,” Ms McConnell says.

“I made the switch to electronic and biomedical engineering because it’s such a dynamic area – we’re just on the cusp of new technology in AI and machine learning, particularly in healthcare, and it’s very exciting.”

Practical experience during courses is highly valued, with strong industry engagement through internships and research projects being fostered by the city’s education providers and an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship to support the start-up environment also being nurtured within the GCHKP – Griffith Enterprise offers a start-up hatchery, Studio 39, while Bond University offers an innovation hub and Accelerator program for budding entrepreneurs.

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