As technologies evolve through the years, easier work arrangements have become more common, allowing professionals to offer their services remotely on a normal basis. This phenomenon gave way to the birth of the ‘Gig Economy’, where freelancers work on their own time at their own pace, as long as their client’s demands are satisfied.
While the benefits of this work arrangement have been life-changing for some professionals, students and fresh graduates are facing a highly diverse job market, creating a very challenging landscape. Therefore, educators must be well-equipped and well-trained to prepare their students.
How big is the gig economy?
While some experts don’t give the Gig Economy the respect and attention it deserves, its growth and scope is evident and far-reaching:
- Between 2014 & 2015, 32% of the Australian workforce had freelanced.
- Furthermore, 51% of those who left their traditional job for freelancing now earn more, with another 69% topping their former regular job salary within a year.
- About 9 out of 10 Australian Businesses – or about 89% – have commissioned a freelancer in 2017.
- In 2016, 35% of workers in the United States were freelancers, and is said to increase to about 43% by 2020.
While the usual image of a freelance worker is an Uber driver, the trend is finding its way into different areas and industries. In Australia, the Web, Mobile, and Software Development sector accounts for 44% of freelancers. The Creative and Design industry comes second (14%), while the Customer and Administrative sector at third (13%).
Moreover, the Gig Economy is not only being used to fill positions and tasks in the specialist level. Surprisingly, managers, consultants, and even executives are also being hired through freelance arrangements. This allows companies to absorb their knowledge and expertise without having to shoulder hefty benefits usually associated in top level positions.
What is the trend saying about the future?
While today’s perception of short-term roles has been transformed through time, the concept of hiring talents and experts in short durations isn’t entirely new. However, what drastically changed is the way it’s done.
Independent contractors have always been around, but the permeation of “freelancing” as we know it only emerged out of the creation of ground-breaking freelance websites, which were somehow instrumental in the shift in how talent is being sourced.
In addition, people joining the workforce nowadays are coming in with a different mindset than from a few years ago, which now favours comfort and freedom over stability. The requirements of companies are also becoming hyper-niched, creating a need for very specific experts that most companies simply have no room for. As more specialised business necessities arise, the demand for freelancers is only set to increase over time.
This indicates the need for new concepts of teaching for students in order to be prepared for a more complex working landscape.
What can educators do to help their students?
Freelancers and people who work in the Gig Economy can be treated as entrepreneurs, selling their professional services as their goods. This means students may be honed as entrepreneurs specialising on certain competencies. But how can this be done?
Some schools have already started offering courses and training opportunities aligned with emerging trends like web design and customer relations. Moreover, being an entrepreneur require a certain level of enthusiasm, dedication, and perseverance. Promoting these traits ahead can be helpful for them.
Opportunities that will provide students the capability to explore different types of jobs – or better yet, to learn through job shadowing – will significantly help them gain necessary skills and qualifications essential for them to land job opportunities for themselves, regardless if they choose to get a job through employment or through freelance. School guidance officers should proactively partner with organizations that provide real job experience for students to secure a good chance of landing a job right after graduation.
What can students do to help themselves?
In 2017, a study saw that about 22 Australians compete for each graduate job. This only suggests that competition in employment has become very tough and that a substantial portion of the working force will have to find their own ways to earn a living – either through entrepreneurship, freelancing, or by looking for business opportunities overseas.
This means students must learn as best they can to land job openings. Learners should also be confident enough to take their shot at whatever career they desire. In addition, they should proactively seek learning opportunities that will provide them with soft skills such as proper communication, collaboration, and critical thinking – all of which are vital in any career.
As educators, helping students in certain career aspects such as goal-setting, self-assessment, as well as self-development is our way of providing them with the tools they need to be successful in whichever career they pursue. Whether they land a full-time job or venture into the Gig Economy, they should be ready to conquer any problems that may come up in a constantly evolving professional landscape.