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Will we survive? 5 digital transformation imperatives for VET

The age of digital transformation is upon us. With automation and the near-viral spread of digital tech through every aspect of work and life, work as we (and our students) know it is changing fast, putting both them (and us) at risk of being outpaced by the new skill demands of the future.


Is vocational education ready to run this race – and win? What do we need to do as a sector?


The Expert Panel for Digital Transformation can give us a clue. In The Learning Country, a report that shows how VET can be future-ready, the Panel sets out five areas we will need to change to ensure we are not just a ‘lucky country’, but are able to build a solid future based on lifelong learning.


System settings


The VET system itself will need to change. Never built for a time of rapid workforce and digital transformation, the way the system is set up may need to be rethought to make lifelong learning ‘attractive, affordable and easy’ for participant groups including employers and individuals.


The Expert Panel’s ideas include creating a comprehensive national lifelong learning policy, growing a lifelong learning investment pool (a long-term, multi-faceted model of shared investment by the beneficiaries of learning), as well as boosting scalability through more public-private partnerships.


It also suggests setting clear priorities and funding allocations for skill sets to enable rapid upskilling and reskilling, and the creation of a more whole-of-government, interconnected approach to engaging the VET sector as part of the wider national innovation agenda into the future.


Industry leadership


Employers will need to be recruited into the lifelong learning effort. Rather than simply identifying skills shortages faced as things change, industry will need to commit themselves to continually building workforce skills through a culture of lifelong learning using Australia’s VET system.


The panel suggests a national information campaign on the imperative, opportunities and benefits of lifelong learning, the provision of evidence-based, industry-specific information on skills changes, and the increased use of independent advisors to guide workforce development into the future.


Learner support


Learners will need to be supported in their pursuit of lifelong learning. Rather than leaving it completely up to them to figure out, any barriers to lifelong learning will need to be directly targeted in the period before, during and after training with a nationally consistent approach.


This might include providing individualised skills assessments, tailored career development support, relevant and authoritative careers information, responsible financial support and attention on learning foundations like literacy and ‘learning to learn’ skills that will position them for success.


Teaching and learning


Teaching, learning and assessment will need to evolve to incorporate best practice use of digital technology and innovation. Encompassing both individual practitioners and RTOs, this is expected to facilitate VET taking a leadership role in the future alongside employers and individual learners.


This would include injecting more digital skills into VET practitioner training, providing them with tools for self-assessment, developing a national approach to continuing professional development including best practice communities, and beginning a sector-specific applied research effort.


Training products


The training products that the VET sector delivers will need to be future-focussed and nationally endorsed to foster individual and workforce agility as well as digital transformation readiness.


The Expert Panel suggests creating a national Digital Capability Framework with a common language to describe digital skills, the inclusion of these skills within training products (including through fast-tracking measures) and a thorough review of how existing training packages measure up.


The digital knowledge of VET practitioners could also be supported with an online resource that captures developments in digital technologies to facilitate ongoing learning and utilisation.