Learning-integrated work could help workers prepare for the digital future
Learning and work need to converge if workers are going to thrive in the digital future, according to a new report.
The report – which is based on a national survey of 1,000 working Australians – found that workers are putting more value on uniquely human skills, such as collaboration, empathy and entrepreneurial skills and learning on the job.
This value shift comes from workers’ recognition that they need to capitalise on their human qualities in order to avoid displacement by AI and automated technologies.
As a result, Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce Director and the report’s author, Dr Sean Gallagher, is calling for a new learning infrastructure to be put in place that supports students and employees in a rapidly and constantly changing, digitally-driven work environment.
According to Gallagher, the new infrastructure would support digital training for all workers, as well as partnerships between educational institutions and employers, so that workers could gain the experience and functional skills needed to do their jobs, as well as human skills.
CEO of TAFE Directors Australia, Craig Robertson, welcomed the report’s findings, saying that the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector is well placed to deliver many of the digital skills workers need for the future of work, especially as part of a more integrated education system.
“All students and all workers need to have future work skills. To build a workforce for the future of work, we need more integration between VET and higher education sectors,” Robertson said.
“At the same time, we need to reimagine the traditional relationship of education institutions and employers and bring them closer together.”
“Currently, the VET sector is highly focused on skills that prepare workers for specific jobs, yet most workplaces are far more dynamic than what VET qualification structures assume. This disconnect will only increase with digital disruption of the workplace. We need to prepare students, not just with the right skills, but also with social competencies developed in digital work environments.”
Gallagher also hopes that the government will step in to support a new infrastructure.
“Australia invested in the National Broadband Network, the physical infrastructure to place us at the forefront of the digital revolution. Now, it’s time to invest in a national learning infrastructure,” he said.
“Only the government has the resources to support digital training of all workers, and the policy levers to coordinate and network this new learning infrastructure of educator-employer partnerships across the economy.”
“Government funding for basic digital competency should be tied to the individual worker to learn at work, catalysing these partnerships. Funding must prioritise support for workers most vulnerable of being displaced by technology.”
“But it is equally incumbent on educators and employers to develop new learning partnerships that focus on preparing people for the digital future.”
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