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5 possibilities for the future of digital skills training

National Skills Week is an important week for Australia’s vocational education and training industry.


It’s a time when we celebrate the role of skills in supporting the growth and employment of individuals, as well as the prosperity of local, state and national economies. We also celebrate how VET plays a central role in delivering those skills so that all these positive benefits can happen.


But are we ready for the future of digital skills?


Moving fast enough to deliver digital skills


Digital skills are the fastest changing variety of skills educators and trainers face today. Across most industries, digital skills are becoming ever more critical to success. In fact, EY research for the mining industry found in traditional ‘blue collar’ mining 70% of jobs will be impacted by technology.


How do we ensure we get digital skills training right for both industry and students?


The new Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) Pilot is answering this question. ReadyTech CEO Marc Washbourne, who sits on the DSO Board, says getting digital skills training right is important in a global digital economy and that the need for digital skills transcends industry boundaries.


“It’s been said software is eating the world, and it’s true that digital transformation is happening everywhere,” he told an 800-strong audience at a webinar hosted by the Department of Education Skills and Employment, Workforce of the Future – Getting the Qualifications Right.


“What the DSO is hearing in terms of feedback is that there are really great aspects of the current system, but there is a significant challenge in keeping digital qualifications up to date with fast changing world, which leads to a mismatch between learning and what employers need.”


5 considerations for the future of digital skills training


So delivering digital skills is firstly about ensuring that we are fleet footed enough as an education and training sector to be able to adapt our training and deliver learning that is fit for both the students heading out into the workforce and the employers that are taking them on board.


Here a few other ideas that could feature in the future of digital skills training.


1. Stronger industry connections


The VET industry will have to forge better connections between training organisations and the industries in which they operate. Though this has been talked about for a long time (and many do have strong, flourishing relationships) on the whole it is not working as well as it could.


This is important in the area of digital skills. For example, the DSO is interested in ensuring that where possible every qualification has some kind of work-based learning activity or immersion where learners are able to immerse themselves in digital learning among a team and peers.


The DSO is also exploring the role independent assessment could play in a digital skills future. While a potentially controversial step for VET, any future process would likely have strong involvement from industry representatives in an effort to free providers up to focus on learning delivery.


2. A variety of learning options


Qualifications will remain the bedrock supporting learners with the critical skills they need to enter work. However, guiding the DSO is the principle that these qualifications are tools rather than ends in themselves, and that the end goal is quality education and training that results in employment.


This means that, increasingly, this is likely to involve a range of training types, like short courses and micro-credentials that can help people upskill in a certain area or reskill for new work (key for the fast-changing area of digital skills) as well as recognising transferability of skills from previous roles.


This will also leave room for unaccredited training, as learners seek to access the skills they need at the right place at the right time to meet the changing digital skills needs of employers or markets.


3. Clearer digital career pathways


There is likely to be a clearer articulation of digital career pathways. The DSO is looking at the potential for a data-led, skills intelligence platform to simplify and support careers development by mapping the skills people will need to master as they move through digital skills careers.


This demystification of digital will again be less about the process of training and more about bringing the system together to focus on pathways that will get people into work with the right skills. It is likely to be more modular, involving the likes of micro-credentials and stackable skills sets.


4. More flexibility for trainers


The DSO is seeking to bring together some common standards or language across digital to enable students and employers to understand what skills education and training is delivering, and enable providers to innovate in the design of quality training that is also compliant with regulations.


This is likely to come along with more flexibility that in the past. Rather than ultra-prescriptive training packages it will be more about providing training providers with the scope to understand a set of clear standards so that they can deploy training flexibly to meet local employment needs.


The DSO’s Train 100 pilot project is one example. Training 100 data analysts through three providers, the DSO has empowered these providers to design learning flexibly in line with employer needs, including both fundamentals and interesting soft skill inclusions like growth mindset training.


5. Stronger digital fluency foundations


Basic digital literacy is also likely to be supported in the future. The DSO is looking at a tech-led digital fluency program, where individuals can understand their level of digital fluency and literacy through assessment and get pointed in the direction of training, including free course options.


This would be designed to raise the basic level of digital fluency in the workforce. With jobs changing so fast and digital becoming a part of every industry, the future will recognise that core digital fluency is an important foundation on which to build the next layer of qualification learning.