Undergraduate student Natalie Parker describes the vital importance of creative problem-solving in an unpredictable future world of work.

In mid-2015 I was halfway through Year 12 and everyone around me seemed to have a solid idea of what they wanted to do at university. Not only that, but they seemed to have their entire career paths planned out. Whether it was becoming a lawyer, a financial advisor or a designer, many of my peers seemed to know exactly what they wanted to do and how they were going to get there.

I was definitely not in the same boat. At the time, I was having a bit of an existential crisis over something I’d been told even in high school: “The job you’re studying for probably won’t exist in 10 years’ time”.

How could I possibly choose a degree for a career that may or may not exist by the time I graduate? Still fretting over the decision, I came across the Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation (BCII), then a brand-new degree at the University of Technology Sydney. 

To be honest, I was a little skeptical at first. The name alone sounded like a bunch of buzzwords thrown together. What was creative intelligence anyway? 

Still, I decided to go along to the information night. Once there, I learned what the degree actually entailed – and it was definitely not what I’d envisioned. I was presented with what I thought was a pretty exciting and relevant university degree. 

Put simply, the BCII is a degree that teaches you how to solve (or at least understand) complex problems using creative methods. It has to be combined with a “core degree”, whether that’s Business, Law, Design etc, which is what makes it transdisciplinary. Personally, I chose to combine the BCII with a Bachelor of Communication, as I’d always been a natural writer and content creator. 

The BCII is grounded in both theoretical and practical work. Throughout the degree we are taught different creative methodologies, which we then get to put into practice by working on real client briefs from various industry partners. Business students work with designers, law students work with engineers and so on. 

Personally, I’ve found these interactions and collaborative projects with students from different core disciplines to be one of the most valuable parts of the degree, especially when it comes to the future of work. Just by working with people from different technical backgrounds, I’ve found myself not only absorbing a lot of new skills and knowledge but also developing more empathy. 

When it comes to the future of work, I think this empathy for people from different backgrounds and with skill sets different to our own will be integral to thriving in an uncertain workplace. 

Choosing to study the BCII essentially put my fears about the uncertain future of work to rest. Instead of locking myself into a career path that might be obsolete in a few years’ time, I’m learning creative problem-solving methodologies, communication and collaborative skills that can slot into any future workplace. 

It’s not that the BCII is predicting what the future of work may look like, it’s giving its students skills that make whatever the future of work looks like irrelevant – because they’ll be able to adapt to whatever comes along. While it's possible the jobs of the accountant, journalist or lawyer may disappear in the near future, the need for creative people who can collaborate to solve real-world problems will probably still be around. 

My hope is that the wider education sector will evolve to the point where every student gets the opportunity to learn these creative and collaborative skills. No matter how uncertain the future of work is, I believe these skills will survive any disruption to any industry. 

Natalie Parker

Natalie Parker is a final year student in a double degree, the Bachelor of Communication/Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation at the University of Technology Sydney. Natalie is already starting to use her skills in innovation, design thinking and effective communication to help organisations understand their stakeholders. She also aims to use them to have a positive impact on the wider community. The ‘future of work’ is a reality for her generation, and Natalie has insights into how the sort of transdisciplinary education she has experienced is preparing her for a more fluid future.

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