Australian Industry Standards (AIS) held a series of Industry Skills Forums and Leaders’ Dinners between September and November 2018.

These events aimed to identify industry skills needs and workforce development issues, now and into the future – including digital transformation.

What happened?

Facilitated by Kerry O’Brien the forums involved two panel discussions. The panels were made up of Industry Leaders and focused on the current challenges facing the industries AIS services. “The second half of each Skills Forum consisted of industry specific breakout sessions, facilitated by AIS Industry Managers.”

The dinners, held the night before the forums, allowed industry leaders to meet to discuss “high-level workforce and skills issues.” “Attendees included leaders from Industry, Government, the education sector, and relevant unions.”

AIS services the following sectors through its 11 Industry Reference Committees: “aviation, transport and logistics, maritime, energy, water and utilities, public safety, police, fire, Defence and corrections. Collectively these IRCs cover more than 1.3 million workers or almost 10% of the Australian workforce.” The ebook of these national conversations identified a series of 14 key messages. In many ways the messages are not new.

The key messages

One message was that the future should be seen with optimism. While some see a future involving disappearing jobs and increasing unemployment, the industry leaders felt that, while some jobs would change, any voids would also be more than filled by new jobs. Access to lifelong learning is critical, though, and “greater connectivity between business, education and government” will be a cornerstone.

A second message is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. The third is that transferability of skills is needed to enable career change and facilitate the development of a workforce that is adaptable and able to move between job roles.

Other messages will also be familiar the VDC News readers. These include a continued bias against trade education and vocational careers, favouring University education – which, in turn, may not produce job-ready graduates. Participants believed that:

“There is an opportunity to promote VET as a ‘first choice’ for students’ post-secondary education, which could include its role in facilitating interesting and financially rewarding career paths.”

This is also coupled with messages about more effective VET/University pathways and better careers information for students, career counsellors and parents alike.

In addition, there is an opportunity for the broader promotion of women role models in the digital workforce across a range of industries.

Moreover, the pace of innovation and change in technology is rapid and continues to increase. So, there is a need to train and innovate now for the future. Digital transformation brings challenges, it’s true, but it also brings opportunities. However, the rapid change challenges current arrangements, and a concept raised repeatedly around the country was ‘micro credentials’.

“This is where individual skill sets are drawn from whole qualifications and bundled to meet a specific skill or regulatory requirement in the workforce.”

Finally, forum participants and leaders believe that “there is a strong call to establish an ongoing consultative forum to continue a national conversation at the leadership level about cross-industry workforce development issues.” This stuff they think, needs constant attention.