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 of work or risk being left behind.
The report, which is based on research conducted by RMIT University and Australian Industry Standards, focuses on the skills impact of increasing digitisation based on two industry case studies in transport and logistics, and public safety and correctional services. It also relies on data from a broader survey of human resources, skills and training decision-makers across a range of industries in Australia.
According to the report, appropriate digital skills are vital to Australia’s ability to compete in a rapidly emerging global digital economy. However, businesses are often only adopting digital technologies gradually and in a restricted manner. This is due to a number of issues, including the perceived costs of digital upskilling and a lack of basic digital skills among their workforce.
Three categories of employers were identified in the report based on their approach to technology uptake and skills acquisition – aggressive technology adopters and skills developers; keen technology adopters with cautious skills development; and slow technology adopters who appreciate the growing need for digital skills but haven’t yet invested in skills development.
Across all categories of these employers, more than half were not satisfied with the digital skills provided by vocational education training (VET) programs. They also had concerns about the currency of VET qualifications to meet industry skills requirements of the future, according to NCVER Managing Director Simon Walker.
The report states that in order to ensure Australian TAFE students are meeting industry digital skills needs, the government and industry must work together with the VET sector. The report also recommends that businesses take proactive action by developing a clear vision and investing in meeting digital skills across their workforces. To help businesses do this, the report proposes a comprehensive Australian workplace digital skills framework that will help businesses identify skills gaps and develop targeted training programs.
The full report can be accessed at ncver.edu.au/publications