NCVER Insight Banner
Insight issue #53 28 November 2014

Future skills: how can we meet the demand?

It’s no surprise that the world in which we live is changing. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. Businesses are using the internet and more efficient distribution channels to break down borders, resulting in a more competitive marketplace. Job roles are either changing, or being replaced by digital processes. Looking forward which skills will workers need and how should they be delivered?

The transforming labour market

Steve Sargent, CEO, GE Mining discussed trends affecting the labour market and his role in the B20 Human Capital Taskforce earlier this year as part of his keynote address The future of work at NCVER's 23rd National Vocational Education and Training Research Conference 'No Frills'.

Changes in technology in early 2000, such as the affordability of computers and the emergence of the internet, have reshaped our world and how we operate today.

Increasingly jobs will be automated, digitised or outsourced, especially high-wage, low-skill roles. Greater automation and digitisation are also transforming industries – resulting in increased productivity without increasing job creation.

A culture of life-long learning and building foundation, rather than job specific skills, is necessary to create a mobile, adaptive workforce. VET will play a critical role in reskilling.

Strong foundations and workplace learning

This is supported by a recent paper, Readiness to meet demand for skills: a study of give growth industries for skills that investigates five Australian growth industries and the role education and training plays in providing people with the right skills to meet this future demand.

The gap is widening between knowledge generated through Australia’s training system, and the skills demanded by employers and individuals.

The report suggests formal education should be improved to provide solid foundation skills for entry into the workforce, with strong literacy and numeracy skills a pre-requisite for entry-level jobs.

The role of employers in developing a skilled workforce is crucial. Employers and training providers need to work in partnership to foster workplace learning opportunities and ongoing professional development, to create a workforce that is willing and able to adapt to the rapidly changing job market.

What is NCVER doing to help support the sector to meet future skills demand?

It is important to ensure that VET research informs the sector in ways to provide effective training, addressing future skills needs. The most recent round of research funding commissioned through the National Vocational Education and Training Research (NVETR) program targets this by focusing on:

  1. Quality, flexibility and responsiveness within the training system
  2. The role of employers and industry in on-the-job skills formation and structured training arrangements
  3. Impact of changing economic conditions on individuals and the role of training.

Seven research grants have been awarded in these areas, providing insight into the future direction of vocational education and training.

Foundation skills are an essential building block in meeting skills demand.  How these skills are being delivered, and by whom, is important in planning for the future. Through the National Foundation Skills Strategy Project this issue is being explored. If you teach or help people develop their English language, literacy, numeracy or employability skills you can find out more here.

For more information:

To view Steve Sargent’s presentation visit

To read Readiness to meet demand: a study of five growth industries visit

For information about each of the seven research grants visit Research program

To complete the National Foundation Skills Strategy Project survey (open until 19 December 2014) visit