Employers need to do more to prepare for the digital future

Media release

8 May 2019

Employers need to do more to prepare for the digital future of work or risk being left behind, according to a new report released today by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER).

The report Skilling the Australian workforce for the digital economy, based on research conducted by RMIT University and Australian Industry Standards, also reveals the degree to which digital technologies are being adopted in Australian workplaces is highly variable despite most employers acknowledging their importance.

“A workforce with appropriate digital skills is a crucial component of Australia’s ability to compete in a rapidly emerging global digital economy,” said Simon Walker, Managing Director, NCVER.

“This new report focuses on the skills impact of increasing digitalisation and shows that employers are often only adopting digital technologies gradually and in a restricted manner. This is due to several factors, including a lack of basic digital skills in their workforce and the perceived costs of digital upskilling.”

The report examines the current digital skills demand and supply situation in Australia via two sector case studies—Transport and Logistics, and Public Safety and Correctional Services—as well as a broader survey of human resources, skills and training decision-makers across a wide array of Australian industries.

It identifies three categories of employers based on their approaches to technology uptake and skills acquisition: the aggressive adopters and skills developers, the keen adopters with cautious skills development, and those who appreciate the growing need for digital skills but haven’t invested in skills development so far.

“Employers who don’t invest in digital skills development tend to expect new recruits to already have the necessary skills,” Mr Walker said.

“Further, more than half of survey respondents were not satisfied with the digital skills provided by VET programs. There were strong concerns about the currency of VET qualifications to meet industry skills requirements of the future.”

The report proposes a comprehensive Australian workplace digital skills framework that will assist employers to identify digital skills gaps and to develop targeted training programs.

It also recommends that government and industry work together with the VET sector more broadly to ensure Australian workplaces have the digital skills they need to cope with future workplace requirements.

“Employers must also be proactive about this if they want to remain competitive in the future,” Mr Walker said. “They need to develop a clear vision and invest in meeting digital skills needs across their workforces.”

Skilling the Australian workforce for the digital economy is available from: www.ncver.edu.au/publications

This research was conducted by Victor Gekara, Darryn Snell, Alemayehu Molla and Stan Karanasios of RMIT University and Amanda Thomas of Australian Industry Standards.

About NCVER: we are the principal provider of research, statistics and data on Australia’s VET sector. Our services help promote better understanding of VET and assist policy-makers, practitioners, industry, training providers, and students to make informed decisions.

This work has been produced by NCVER on behalf of the Australian Government and state and territory governments, with funding provided through the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

Media enquiries: Helen Wildash M: 0448 043 148 E: helenwildash@ncver.edu.au