This is what a new paper from the Australian industry Group (AiG) is calling for in: “Skills urgency – Transforming Australia’s workplaces.” They also see it as a ‘thought starter’.
Amongst other things it proposes that “skills development needs a different approach for the future: where learning is not separate from doing; where we immerse learning in work environments.”
Why skills urgency?
That’s because stuff is happening! “The pace of technology adoption is expected to remain unabated and may accelerate in some areas” and “skills gaps continue to be high as in-demand skills across jobs change in the next five years.” There continue to be large talent gaps, the paper points out. The nature of work is changing with an increasing need for digital and human centred, or ‘soft’, skills including leadership (as we have pointed out in so many other articles). Technician and trades worker skills have also been reported by employers as ‘difficult to meet’ and, of course, such skills and occupations are at the heart of much VET training.
A lot of these skill needs will be met by employers re-skilling existing workers on the job – or by employing experienced people, the report suggests. But other approaches to meeting skill needs are ‘up there’ too, including an increased focus on employing apprentices and trainees or re-designing jobs. This may mean the development of more ‘higher apprenticeships’ and employing cadets. Another focus is on offering shorter courses. Unsurprisingly, the paper also suggests that any subsidies offered to employers to make this happen will be welcomed too.
A broad skills ecosystem approach?
Skills ecosystems are not a new concept and normally refer to a self-sustaining network of workforce skills and knowledge in an industry or region, and you can read a bit more about them here, with a more recent article by John Buchanan from Sydney Uni available here.
AiG say they are using the term a bit more loosely as a way of emphasising “the inter-dependency of component actors when getting the skills equation right.” They suggest these actors include “companies and industry, education and training providers and systems, policy settings and governments, and individuals and community.” Basically, everyone in the ecosystem needs to be in the mix and playing their part.
However, having this approach succeed will depend on effective partnerships right across the whole ecosystem. The paper suggests the need to develop innovative education and training initiatives, and this might be done through the development of multi-partner industry/training sector hubs that “would develop partnerships between industry-student-provider engagement models that foster and increase relationships, and result in industry-tuned workforce entrants.”
What AiG reckon is needed
AiG’s paper points out that “a cocktail of factors is converging to create an urgency to skills
formation and development.” However, they reckon that Australia’s tertiary education system is not best positioned to provide what employers need! As the nature of work is evolving and changing, AiG sees delivering future-focused education and training with, and in, industry to be the overall goal.
Thus, they propose a re-imagined apprenticeship system, the development of flexible qualifications to allowing short form and focused training, the development of broad digital skills which also integrate human capabilities and a need for new templates for partnerships across the skill ecosystem, and work-based learning as an underpinning core principle in qualifications.
The report also highlights a few case studies that might be worth a look. But the learnings from these studies are that companies need a culture of learning while working, a learning management system to keep track of the organisation’s skills pool, a mix of in-house training with programs developed and delivered by external providers that are co-designed where possible by combining the use of short courses, micro-credentials and full qualifications as needed.