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Why Arts graduates are the best-equipped for the future

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

The study of literature, history, philosophy and art has historically shaped policies and cultures, but today arts students are routinely mocked as having little prospects beyond serving fries at fast-food restaurants.

However, the skills arts graduates gain will ultimately place them ahead of the pack in the new era of work, a new report from Deloitte has revealed.

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“Humanities degrees involve many technical skills including quantitative analysis skills, policy development, software use and foreign language skills,” report authors John O’Mahony and Mike Thomas explained.

“Changes in the labour market are making these skills more important over time,” they continued, noting that the share of the workforce required to have transferrable skills is set to grow from 53 per cent in 2000 to 63 per cent by 2030.

The good news for arts graduates is that transferrable skills form the basis of their studies.

The bad news is that these skills are particularly aligned with public sector work, rather than better paying jobs in the utilities and mining sectors.

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In fact, the average weekly wage for a mining worker is $2,595, $1,462 for a construction worker and $1,825 for workers in the electricity, gas, water and waste services.

But for humanities graduates, the average wage across their top industries is $1,226.

“A humanities education equips individuals well with transferrable skills. While these skills are important to the success of individuals in their career, they tend to be hard to credential,” the authors said.

Graduates at the same company, regardless of degree, may often start on the same salary. However over time, wages don’t always reflect the value employers place on their employees skills, O’Mahony and Thomas said.

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Nevertheless, the growing demand for workers with the ability to work collaboratively, solve problems and innovate means transferrable skills will become easier to credential and attract higher wages.

As it stands, the average humanities graduate can expect to earn $200,000 more than a high school graduate over their earnings life.

The value of a humanities degree goes beyond the financial, the authors added.

“The Australian public service is faced with very complex policy problems, some of which have been called ‘wicked’ problems,” they said.

Climate change, obesity and Indigenous disadvantage all fall into that bucket.

Solving these problems require multiple skill-sets and collaborations.

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“Humanities graduates are well placed to succeed in this environment because they bring a mix of transferrable and technical skills to bear on the issues at hand.

“The team-oriented skills and innovative capabilities found in humanities graduates are ideal for navigating through the interests of various stakeholders, working across organisational boundaries and adapting to the flexible approaches that are required to solve wicked problems.”

You know what that means?

It’s probably time to stop making fun of them.

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