A recent report of a joint project undertaken by CSIRO and TAFE Queensland, suggests that ‘as digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, business models and employment models are being disrupted and machines are developing the capability to perform ever more complex tasks’. As a result, workers will need to learn and re-skill in an ongoing fashion to keep up with existing and new job requirements emerging from continuous technological change. This in turn has implications for the education and training sector in terms of its readiness and adaptability to meet the needs of workers transitioning into a digital economy.
This two-part Focus on topic features the impact on employment and skills of the phenomenon often described as ‘digital disruption’. This part considers the implications for skills and training and the other looks at the effects on jobs and employment. Users may also like to visit the Technology Pod, part of the VOCEDplus Pod Network.
Skills and training: what are the issues?
Recent research on the impact of technology and digitisation on skills and training suggest that training providers, from early schooling through to tertiary education, need to adapt curriculum to the rapidly changing technological environment. The recent ABC Four Corners episode, Future proof (ABC, 2016), discusses the need to better prepare children now for the changing work environment of the near future by adapting curriculum to suit: instead of continuing to teach curriculum for jobs that may not exist by the time they graduate, schools and tertiary institutions should focus on training future workers in skills that will be useful for jobs that are yet to be created. This includes not only the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills (particularly in coding and algorithm), but the ‘soft’ skills in innovative and critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and team work.
The research in Amplifying human potential: education and skills for the fourth industrial revolution (Infosys, 2016), focuses on the concerns and challenges facing young working people aged between 16 and 25, in Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. A key finding reveals that young people who have confidence in their technological skills are more confident in future careers; while another describes how a significant number of respondents questioned whether their academic experiences prepared them well enough for working life. Soft skills such as cognitive, communication and team player skills are also recognised as important. The report argues that a more fluid skill set, or ‘liquid skills’, facilitated through continuous, sometimes self-directed learning, will allow young people to adapt to a future ‘fluid working landscape’.
Lifelong learning is an imperative not only for young people but for older workers who will still be working in 10 years’ time. In Lifelong learning: reforming education for an age of technological and demographic change (Nevin, 2016), the author discusses the importance of businesses playing their part in providing opportunities for employees to re-skill and up-skill to remain employable in this changing technological landscape.
- A smart move: future-proofing Australia's workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) 
- Digital disruption: what do governments need to do? [Australia, 2016]
- Enabling digital entrepreneurs [international, 2016]
- Getting skills right: assessing and anticipating changing skill needs [OECD countries, 2016]
- New skills for the digital economy: measuring the demand and supply of ICT skills at work [OECD countries, 2016]
- Skills for a changing world: advancing quality learning for vibrant societies [US, 2016]
- Tech jobs for all?: exploring the promise and pitfalls of technology training in the United States 
- The future of work: jobs and skills in 2030 [UK, 2014]
- The VET era: equipping Australia's workforce for the future digital economy 
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Published: July 2016