Microsoft believes that equipping the nation to succeed in the digital age – and ensuring all Australians are carried along – must be an urgent national priority. Through the launch of our National Skills Program in 2018 and the practical directions contained in this report, we hope
to lead a focused conversation with our partners in business, education and government.
Our priority is to ensure adults already in work can navigate the threats and opportunities presented by the digital revolution, which is being driven by the growth of cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, blockchain and other powerful innovations.
Experts are divided as to whether these digital technologies will mean more or fewer jobs for Australian workers in total. But it is clear they are changing the nature of work and our economy. Consequently, governments and industry need to work together to ensure Australia has suitable pools of digitally skilled people and help them move into new areas of the economy.
More than any other reform, transitioning Australia’s skills base requires a radical shift in the nation’s approach to on-the-job learning. It is an urgent priority to make people aware that they will need to upgrade their skills before disruption a ects their particular role or their industry. Some workers are already accessing intensive support – such as those being forced out of the automotive manufacturing sector. However, a much larger cohort – described in this report as ‘career reinventors’ – are in jobs that will likely be impacted over the medium term.
Skilling Australia’s workforce for a digital future cannot be outsourced or postponed. In coming years, virtually all organisations will want to consider taking advantage of new digital capabilities such as AI and robotics. However, the biggest inhibitor they face is the skill level required within their workforce to manage these technologies.
To address these issues, we argue Australia should also:
• encourage employers to participate in preparing their workforces for the digital era, including by changing career pathways and hiring practices
• audit current skill levels and create large-scale databases to better understand current and future skills requirements
• expand digital literacy, including by introducing tools to help individuals assess their own skill levels and o ering greater support for computer literacy programs
• promote more ‘micro-credentials’, alternative qualifications and online courses to enable people to garner the skills they need,
and recognise them as alternative educational pathways
• support entrepreneurial behaviours in individuals and within organisations
• provide the right policies and support to encourage entrepreneurs to build new businesses and create jobs here in Australia
• create a high level of digital connectivity and inclusion across metropolitan and rural areas, as well as different industries, cultures and generations.
Governments, businesses and academia all have crucial roles to play in transitioning our workforce from having the skills needed today to having those that will be required as digital technologies continue
to a ect the national and global economies. We encourage all groups to be bold, curious and collaborative in addressing this challenge – and
to do everything possible to ensure nothing holds current and future Australians back.