New report reveals Australia’s major digital skills gap

New report reveals Australia’s major digital skills gap

New research has revealed a major gap in digital skills across Australia’s workforce, with 87 per cent of jobs now requiring these skills, and a need for 156,000 new technology workers to keep pace with the rapid transformation of businesses.

The findings highlight an urgent need to improve digital skills to ensure economic recovery from COVID-19 and to avoid jeopardising a $10 billion growth in the technology, media and communications industries by 2025.

The new report, ‘Ready, Set, Upskill - Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow’ was released by RMIT Online, in collaboration with Deloitte Access Economics, following surveys of 1,000 Australian working professionals and employers.

The report also revealed that three out of four Australians want to learn about emerging technologies, such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, and that four in five Australian business leaders think that adopting new technologies is important to achieve business goals.

RMIT Online CEO Helen Souness said responding to Australia’s digital skills gap is a national imperative, and Australia’s economic recovery will rely heavily on the availability of these skills to power business transformation.

“The events of last year have underlined the urgency of bridging this skills gap. Australian employers across all industries need to prioritise training and upskilling to transform, survive and thrive in the post-COVID world. This includes shifting their perspective on training to consider it as a core business activity rather than a nice-to-have,” she said.

“With four in five Australian business leaders agreeing that adopting new technologies is important to achieve business goals, the decisions we make now will be a key driver of our economic success.

“What is encouraging is the number of people who say they have extended skills like leadership and critical thinking as we know these enterprise skills are also critical to Australia’s business leaders. What we now need to see is a similar extension of technical skills in our corporate workforce.” 

The report’s release comes as many businesses look towards digitisation as a pathway to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

While some Australians completed training to meet digital needs, evidence suggests it won’t be enough to fill the gap, with 50,600 Australians reporting a lack of the necessary skills or education as their main difficulty in finding work as of August 2020.  Of those surveyed, 29 per cent of Australians reported their critical thinking skills improved over the course of the pandemic, however, this was not accompanied by a similar improvement in technical skills like coding.

Other key findings from the study revealed:

  • One-third of respondents felt their job requirements had changed and one in four reported they didn’t have the skills they needed to complete their day-to-day job

  • 61 per cent of respondents reported their skills improved over the pandemic - but these are soft skills rather than digital skills

  • One-quarter of those surveyed said their data analysis skills are not at the level required or are outdated compared with their employers’ requirements

  • More than half of Australians have little to no understanding of coding, blockchain, AI and data visualisation

  • One-third of respondents felt their job requirements had changed with one in four concerned that their job would be made redundant

  • 52 per cent prefer a learning culture over a fun culture at work and 38 per cent of Australians would prefer paid study leave over a promotion 

  •  23 per cent of Australians said that learning isn't available in times/ways that suit them

  • Work commitments (16 per cent), cost of coursework (11 per cent) and personal commitments (i.e. caring; 8 per cent) are the top three barriers to factors keeping Australians from learning


John O'Mahony, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said that investing in Australia’s workforce promises to deliver strong returns, including economic growth, that will continue for years to come.

“The time to act on workforce development is now, and as the research shows, an imperative first step is ensuring Australia’s workforce is equipped with a basic level of digital literacy through effective skills development and training programs,” he said.

The ‘Ready, Set, Upskill - Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow’ Report is available online via the following link.

 

Story: Jennifer Graham

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