What are the key challenges facing the EM sector workforce in the next decade?

The purpose of this section of the strategy document will be to guide organisations’ focus towards the common and significant challenges facing our future workforce. Data, examples and related projects will be referenced to illustrate each theme and act as a catalyst for further exploration by organisations. Each theme will consist of a narrative followed by an analysis of what this means for the future of:

  • Our Work – the implications on the roles, tasks and responsibilities expected of our people.
  • Our Workplace – the implications on the work environment.
  • Our Workers – the implications for the people who will be doing the work – what skills, knowledge and attributes will be required of them.

The natural environment. This theme will cover the impacts of climate change, forecast increases in the frequency and scale of natural hazard events, human interaction with the environment, the impacts of emergency events on biodiversity and how these interactions are likely to affect the EM workforce. Related projects and references will include: Climate Ready Victoria (DELWP 2015); Victoria’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan 2017-2020 (DELWP 2017); The Future Needs of the Emergency Management Sector in Victoria (DELWP 2017).

The human and social environment. This theme will cover demographic changes such as population growth, increased urbanisation and the implications for social cohesion, recruiting and work locations. Other areas covered will be: ageing and health, changing volunteer demographics and the future of volunteering, the challenges in broadening diversity and changes to the mental and physical resilience within communities. Related projects and references will include: Community Resilience Framework (EMV 2017); Resilient Recovery Strategy (EMV 2018); Enabling sustainable emergency volunteering (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC); The value of volunteers, volunteering and volunteerism (3Vs) project (EMV); Emergency Management Diversity & Inclusion Framework (EMV 2016).

Technology, infrastructure & communications. The implications from changing social media use and new technologies on the workforce. How will emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality (AR) affect our workforce and how do we best exploit technological opportunities, particularly for training and engagement of career staff and volunteers. The implications of the built environment and infrastructure on our workforce will be covered, including supply chain vulnerability, transport (personal and public), critical infrastructure and our cyber dependency. Related projects and references will include: Critical Infrastructure Resilience Strategy (EMV 2015); The Future Needs of the Emergency Management Sector in Victoria (DELWP 2017).

Our sector cultures & structures. This theme acknowledges the influence of our organisational policies, structures, governance systems and cultures on our workforce capabilities and capacity. This theme will allow us to articulate the cultural and structural challenges specific to the whole-of-sector and also to each EM sub-sector and organisation and the collaboration and integration required to meet the future challenges. Aspects such as leadership development, succession planning, employee and volunteer mobility and flexibility, consistency of practice and career pathways will be covered in this theme. Related projects and references will include: Emergency Management Leadership Programs Review (EMV), Emergency Management Capability Framework (EMV 2017); An exploration of the role of the Victorian Emergency Management Institute in our people’s career and leadership development.

Stakeholder expectations. This theme will capture the changes in community expectations of emergency services and the challenge of fostering trusted relationships. What are the expectations of government (state and local)? What are the expectations of staff and volunteers and how do we meet these? The implications on our workforce of 24/7/365 operations – how do we manage burn-out, fatigue and promote wellbeing? What does the expected growth in the resilience, relief and recovery aspects of EM mean for our people?  

During the development of the future challenges themes, the following key points were captured for inclusion in the upcoming strategy development process:

  • The above challenges are interlinked and complex and cannot be understood as a complete, closed and predictable system.
  • We need to present a balanced perspective that highlights future opportunities as well as the challenges.
  • The future will not be an extension of the past. The EM sector must expect the rate of change to increase, meaning more shocks, stresses and changes, more often.
  • We need to place greater emphasis on ensuring that our people are resilient and adaptable rather than developing them to operate in specific, defined futures or roles.
  • The future will be complex and challenging enough without creating our own friction. As a sector, we need to better understand how agency decisions impact our sector workforce and collective service delivery.