Two key reports from the Australian Industry and Skills Committee (AISC) are highlighted here. The first is the National Industry Insights Report for 2020/21, and the second is a practical resource to help identify future skills and training.

Industry insights

The National Industry Insights Report for 2020/21, “provides high-level analysis of industry skills needs and the factors and trends affecting the demand for skills at a national and cross-industry level.” It draws from information provided by Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) and their skills forecasts.

The report found that there was a very high level of demand for cross-industry skills, and this is heartening, but “industry and occupational-specific skills remain a priority for all industries.” We have highlighted the 5 ‘priority skills’ identified in another article and, as we note there, 4 of the 5 are generic or 21st Century skills.

There are a range of trends driving industry, including: economic conditions, trends in the labour market, structural change in industries and occupations, demographic trends – including Australia’s aging workforce and trends in female workforce participation and how companies are now doing business. Factors influencing this include a growing demand for care-related services and products, emerging or changing markets, moves to a more knowledge-based economy and the use of technologies, and having companies work more as networks in ‘skills ecosystems’ or supply chains.

In addition, competitive pressures are growing, and this leads to developing workplace dynamics that involve re-organisation of human resources to sustain competition and a move towards ‘start-up thinking’, which includes a focus on entrepreneurialism, freelancing and contracting.

So, this all serves to identify a series of skills mismatches, shortages or gaps.

And, at the end of the day, there are other factors to consider, including such issues as climate change, international action on sustainability, as well as access to reliable internet. Finally, the report points out that there are a range of “policy and regulatory factors which influence the demand for skills.”

Future skill and training needs

The second report is described as a ‘practical resource’ designed to help identify future skills needs and training. It’s seen as forward looking and having a broader utility in helping design and deliver better approaches to working and learning. It proposes a series of four scenarios and these are “intended to stimulate discussion amongst Industry Reference Committees (IRCs) in considering future changes to Training Packages.” The scenarios are presented towards the end of the paper, which concludes with a ‘supporting discussion’ section. Its purpose “is to stimulate discussion rather than prescribe solutions and [it’s recommended] using them to frame related VET agenda discussions and debates.” Maybe this is something RTOs need to talk about internally?

The trends are seen in terms of a number of ‘headings’ summarising key areas of change. It then goes on to address the future of skills and learning, and therefore the future of VET.

The future skills identified are many of the ‘usual suspects’, including digital, collaboration, learning and adapting, analysis and entrepreneurship which other articles in this issue talk about.

In terms of learning, approaches that encourage and enable lifelong learning are seen as critical. Pedagogy is important too, so “teaching styles, education approaches, and questions relating to the role of the educator continue to be important so that the abilities and capacity of educators and trainers are fully utilised and encouraged.” Learning also needs to become more ‘fluid’ and cross disciplinary, the report suggests.

So, a future VET system also needs to be ‘fluid’ to address rapid changes and “an increasingly unstable labour market” where “personalisation and customisation are the new standard.” And,

“The result is the growing expectation that training and education should adjust and cater to individual needs, at the right time, in the right way, and at the right price.”

Better integration with industry is also seen as important.