A new report by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Skilling the Australian workforce for the digital economy, has found that businesses need to be doing more to prepare for the digital future or risk being left behind. While the report focuses on employers, it’s message – that businesses should invest sooner rather than later in digital skills – also applies to employees.
In order to meet the demands of a digital future under industry 4.0, workers, as well as their employers, will need to be more proactive about upskilling.
According to the Google Australia-commissioned Future Skills report, to remain employable in the future, workers will need to make a habit of refreshing their skills and picking up new ones throughout their careers1. In other words, they must embrace lifelong learning.
This was also the overarching message of RMIT’s recent event, Digital skills to future proof your career. At this event, four pioneers in the fields of technology, science, artificial intelligence and machine learning spoke to students about what skills they’ll need to thrive in a rapidly evolving digital world. All of them spoke about the importance of continuous learning.
A survey by Hays in 2018 found 77% of employers are more likely to shortlist a candidate who has regularly upskilled2. Yet even those who want to remain in their roles will need to continue learning. The Future Skills report predicts that workers’ job tasks will change by 18% every decade, requiring frequent skills refreshers to adapt to new developments3.
However, this doesn’t mean that you will have to spend more time in the classroom undergoing formal education. Most upskilling opportunities occur in the workplace even at organisations that don’t offer official training and educational options. This can be in the form of mentorships, webinars and events, industry and professional associations, networking, and being part of projects outside your usual remit. These are in addition to the huge range of self-learning modules, short courses, micro credentials and certificate options on offer.
The difficult part is deciding what skills to focus on developing.
This will of course depend on your job, industry and career trajectory. There are some skills though that continually come up in reports and events as being crucial to the digitally connected industry 4.0 era.
RMIT Senior Lecturer Dr Tien Huynh presenting at the recent Digital skills to future proof your career event at RMIT's Activator, May 17, 2019.
Data literacy is the most commonly mentioned skill that will be in demand in the digital age and it’s easy to see why. As a growing number of businesses digitise their operations and gain access to ever increasing amounts of data, employees across the organisation need to be able to understand and use it effectively. Data is useless without context so having digitally literate employees who work where it’s being generated is the key to turning data into insights that can be used to gain a competitive edge. Start by familiarising yourself with the basic concepts of data and how it’s used within your workplace before moving onto more complex data analytics skills.
Another skill that keeps popping up in discussions around future skills needs is coding. The Guardian predicts that there will be almost 28 million coders in the world within five years, compared to 23 million in 20184. You don’t have to become a pro hacker but understanding coding languages and basic programming means you’ll be able to better control or ‘communicate’ with the machines around you. Coding has also been found to help improve problem-solving skills.
Long gone are the days when social media was reserved only for individuals. Businesses across all industries have embraced social media as a way to connect with customers on a personal level and market directly to their end users. Even if your role doesn’t directly relate to marketing and/or sales, having the skills to use social media to promote the business or add updates to the company page from ‘in the field’ are becoming increasingly valuable. In fact, social media skills are the fourteenth most in demand skills of 2019 according to LinkedIn5.
The cloud computing revolution is here and businesses across all industries are now storing, managing, processing and sharing information and infrastructure on the cloud. It has consistently been at the top of LinkedIn’s most in demand hard skills, topping the list again in 20196. For businesses, the most important skills for employees to possess regarding cloud computing are the ability to know what services to pick and how to secure these services.
Even if you don’t feel that digital skills play an important role in your current job, diversifying your skillset is a great way to future-proof your career by boosting your employability over a range of roles. According to an analysis by the New York Times, there are a lot of skills overlap between seemingly dissimilar jobs7.
Upskilling to learn digital skills will also help you become more comfortable working with new or unfamiliar software and technology, which will be invaluable given the rate of technological change occurring today.
The best way to get started is to read widely and keep updated about emerging trends in your industry, and then tailor your upskilling training around these areas.
As Capgemini Director of Artificial Intelligence Dheeren Velu said at RMIT’s Digital skills to future proof your career event, there are a lot of unknowns in the digital future and to thrive in this environment means being adaptable and open to new opportunities.
Author: Adelle King
1 AlphaBeta 2018, Future Skills, Google Australia.
2 Hays 2018, 'Looking for a job? Three in four employers prioritise continuous learners', viewed 21 May, <https://www.hays.com.au/press-releases/looking-for-a-job-three-in-four-employers-prioritise-continuous-learners-1950095>.
3 AlphaBeta 2018, Future Skills, Google Australia.
4 Hargrave, S 2018, 'Rise of the machines: Why coding is the skill you have to learn', The Guardian, viewed 21 May, <https://www.theguardian.com/new-faces-of-tech/2018/oct/25/rise-of-the-machines-why-coding-is-the-skill-you-have-to-learn>.
5 Petrone, P 2019, 'The Skills Companies Need Most in 2019 - And How to Learn Them', LinkedIn, viewed 21 May, <https://learning.linkedin.com/blog/top-skills/the-skills-companies-need-most-in-2019--and-how-to-learn-them>.
7 Miller, C & Bui, Q 2017, 'Switching Careers Doesn't Have to Be Hard: Charting Jobs That Are Similar to Yours', The New York Times, viewed 21 May, <https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/27/upshot/switching-careers-is-hard-it-doesnt-have-to-be.html>.
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