Would you be a great population forecaster?

Would you be a great population forecaster?

Andrew Hedge 23 Aug, 2019

We’re currently looking for the newest member of our population forecasting team. The ideal person has a fairly unique set of skills, but we figured people like you, who share our curiosity about places and how they’re changing, are the kind of people who should consider applying. So we’ve written this morning’s blog to give you a taste of what our forecasters do, including quite a revealing Q&A with one of the team, in the hope .id’s next population forecaster might be reading.

If you read this and it sounds like something you (or someone you know) would enjoy doing, check out the skills and experience we’re looking for here, and get in touch. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t come up all that often, so we want to find the right person who shares our passion for this kind of work.

The dirtiest boots at .id

Our founder Ivan has always said ‘the best way to get to know a place is to get some mud on your boots’.

There has never been a time in history when we’ve been able to tell so much about another part of the country without leaving the office. However, time and again we’re reminded that visiting a place – getting some mud on your boots – provides context you simply can’t get any other way. Especially when you’re a population forecaster.

The real beauty of this work is the opportunity to get out and see a part of the country you may not have otherwise visited. Combining that insight with their own expertise, the knowledge of your colleagues and the best data available, our team then create detailed population forecasts that are used by councils and the private sector to make significant decisions about the future of our communities.

What does a population forecaster do?

Our forecasters use a model developed by .id and has been refined over a number of Censuses. It’s important to note these are forecasts, not projections – they apply a demographers’ knowledge of the patterns we follow throughout suburban and human life cycles, rather than simply projecting a trend. In all our forecasts, we are explicit and open with our assumptions about factors such as migration, births, deaths and the supply of dwellings – in fact, we believe that’s the key to producing a resource that people can use with confidence.

Who uses our population forecasts?

The population forecasts we produce at .id are used to make significant investment decisions. Commissioned by local councils, they’re used by infrastructure managers, strategic planners, community services teams and many other parts of council to inform their plans that shape the future of the communities.

In most places, these forecasts are also made publicly available, so these figures are also cited by local businesses and not-for-profit groups in funding submissions, grant applications and when they are making decisions about investing in a community.

Meet the team

I spoke with our forecasting team in preparing this piece – my plan was to include a few pithy quotes to share their first-hand experience of doing this work. However, what Nenad shared with me was so well put, I felt the best thing to do was just share it with you verbatim. It’s a great insight to what motivates people in this role, and the curiosity and openness that makes someone a great forecaster.

Personally, what’s your favourite thing about being a forecaster?

My favourite thing about this job is being able to help councils and communities plan for their future.

Our work consists of familiarising ourselves with a place through research and data analysis, understanding a place in a region or urban area context, the role and function of a Local Government Area and how similar or different that is to those around it.

The ability (and necessity) to connect that to future assumptions regarding how a place will change and grow by assessing policy, strategy and regional dynamics is our area of expertise. My favourite part comes at the end when we prepare a very informative and polished presentation for the council, inform them of the forecast results, open for questions and invite debate so that together we, as forecasters and council staff, as local experts – can form the best possible population forecast picture of a place.

At the end of the day, is used in councils to make some very important decisions. Million-dollar investments are often informed by, which I use as motivation to do a good job so that people can use our product with confidence.

What attracted you to the work in the first place?

When I first came to .id I was working with the SAFi team, and while the work was interesting, I felt a little desk-bound. I was given the opportunity to join the team, and what I liked about the job was the ability to visit and learn about new places through deep immersion into how those places operate. I also liked the client interaction and presentation component of the job. The opportunity to learn from clients, adjust assumptions based on new knowledge – but also defend our work when needed – attracted me.

Working on projects from start to finish, sharing insights by writing blogs, as well as the encouragement to pursue a range of personal development opportunities also attracted me to the role.

Finally, in this job you end up visiting some unusual, amazing places.

We have the luxury of being in a position where we can really experience and influence the entire demographic spectrum in Australia and New Zealand. One week I could be flying all day to Port Hedland, WA in order to understand the dynamics of a post-mining boom economy and how that affects population growth. The following week I could be visiting the beautifully wild Far North of New Zealand, driving around in shorts and a singlet (jandals mandatory) and examining areas of development funded by a hungry market of Auckland retiree sun-seekers before putting on a suit the next morning, flying down to Wellington to meet with senior planners and directors to present an executive briefing about their population forecasts.

What’s an example of something you wouldn’t have known unless you visited a place?

Some people may say that we don’t need to visit places as much nowadays because we have a lot of information at our fingertips – but I don’t believe that.

While we may have the latest high res aerial photos of a place, be able to download the latest local and regional strategic plans and cadastre data for a new precinct structure plan area, it’s the intangibles that you only get from a visit which stick with you for years.

When I drive to a small regional centre and see that 40-50% of commercial floor space (shops on a High St) are vacant or empty, and that a 200-lot estate which was released nine years ago is struggling to sell and develop – I immediately know that this place is challenged economically and there is little opportunity for growth.

Our forecasts provide an independent assessment – the most likely future scenario, given the best information available. So, the next questions are – “why?” and “will that change?”

Sometimes even having lunch at a local cafe or restaurant at 10am, then returning to the same place at 3pm for a much-needed coffee (due to a 6:15am flight) and observing the demographics of the clientele coming through can tell you about the dynamics of a place.

By visiting so many different places we can also put an LGA’s opportunities and challenges into perspective and develop a more intimate understanding of a place, beyond just numbers.

Personally, I grew as a human by being in this job. Visiting some impoverished parts of Western Sydney and seeing children playing on the street with broken toys wearing torn clothes then an hour later hanging out in a glitzy Sydney cafe en route to the airport puts the issue of inequality right in your face.

Seeing what the closure of a meatworks does to a rural community where only 40% of households have a sewage connection makes me less likely to whinge about a cracked footpath on my own street.

Above all, this job makes us more objective – as forecasters and as people.

Get in touch

Applications for this position will close in the next week, so if this piece has piqued your interest, learn more about the opportunity to join our forecasting team here. If you’re simply interested in learning more about our population forecasting work, you can read other blogs from our forecasting team here.

Also published on Medium.

Andrew Hedge

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