Lifelong learning key to unlocking skills gaps

Lifelong learning key to unlocking skills gaps

A new survey of 600 Australian businesses has found almost half hire new to fill skills gaps rather than upskill existing staff, despite the benefits of delivering education and training internally.

And, with nearly 90% of employers finding it difficult to get staff with the skills they need, concerns are growing over the widening digital skills gap in Australia.

The findings are from a new whitepaper, ‘LEARN. WORK. REPEAT. The value of lifelong learning in professional industries’ by RMIT Online, in collaboration with Deloitte Access Economics.

RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness said the recommendations in the whitepaper highlighted the urgent need to adapt in line with a rapidly evolving workforce culture and demand.

“The evolution of work is charging full steam ahead and Australia’s global competitiveness is on the line,” she said.

“The findings in our whitepaper offer an optimistic glimpse into the future of work and industry 5.0, where lifelong learning can unlock the potential of emerging technologies, flying in the face of fears that “robots will take our jobs”.

“This new environment is one where individuals thrive and succeed through self-expansion and constant reinvention enabled by lifelong learning.

“While this will require a shift in traditional ways of thinking, it represents an exciting opportunity for growth, both on an economic and personal level, that continues well beyond the years we spend in school or university,” Souness said.

Online learning

The comprehensive analysis comes at a time when the future of work is at the forefront of public discussions as automation and the rapid change created by digital transformation highlight the array of knowledge and proficiencies that will be needed by the nation’s labour force.

The survey delved into employers’ perceptions of the value of lifelong learning for businesses and individuals, polling over 600 Australian businesses in professional industries.

Key findings from the study revealed:

  • 49% of businesses approached skill shortages within their organisation by hiring new employees, while only 45 percent mediated the issue by delivering education and training internally. This was despite the fact the cost of replacing a bad hiring decision within six months was two and a half times the person’s salary[1]
  • Over two-thirds (68%) of professional employers surveyed believed the benefits were shared roughly equally between the individual and the business overall
  • Most common business benefits from lifelong learning were identified as delivering better customer service and client service
  • 15% of surveyed businesses in professional industries had no means of addressing skill shortages within their own organisation

RMIT Vice-Chancellor and President Martin Bean CBE said the University was outspoken about its mission to prepare students for life and work, not just to get a job.

“We know the future of work will demand new skills and a greater focus on resilience, adaptability, creativity and more,” he said.

“That’s why we’re continuously adapting, providing fit-for-purpose-education in emerging in-demand fields and retraining students at pace.

“Students can visit, return, or top-up on demand and that’s exactly what an evolving, disrupted workplace requires.”

The LEARN. WORK. REPEAT. The value of lifelong learning in professional industries’ whitepaper is available online via the following link.


  [1]Yager, F., The Cost of Bad Hiring Decisions Runs High (2012) <>.

Story: Diana Robertson 


  • Future World of Work
  • Education

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.