Claire Field on why we need EdTech to help up-skill all workers


The challenge Australia faces is not just keeping up with other advanced economies, it is making sure “no worker is left behind” as we transform our workplaces

Australia is ranked 15th in the world for digital competitiveness, 38th in the sub-factor of employee training and 40th in the sub-factor of digital/ technological skills.

A recent report, The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy developed by an expert panel and released by the Australian Industry Skills Committee aims to lift Australia’s digital competitiveness. While the report was commissioned in the VET sector, many of its recommendations also relate to higher education.

The challenge Australia faces is not just keeping up with other advanced economies, it is making sure “no worker is left behind” as we transform our workplaces. The report cites research estimating that:

* automation will displace 2.7m Australian workers, and

* technology will augment 4.5m Australian workers.

There are two elements to the report which in my view underpin its critical importance.

First, the call for meaningful, well-crafted public policy change, including a national lifelong learning policy backed by a long-term multi-faceted model for shared investment, encouraging whole-of-government interconnected approaches (for example, VET being active in the Growth Centres, Industry 4.0 Testlabs and Cooperative Research Centres), and a long-term programme of independent trusted advisors to work with individual businesses to support their digital transformation and help them navigate the training options available.

The second area of focus which I think is critical (and is too often missing in similar discussions) is the recognition that educators also need upskilling on digital technologies, not simply so that they can teach new digital skills but to enhance teaching and learning more broadly.

In pre-COVID times I regularly attended international EdTech conferences and visited EdTech providers across the globe. The evidence is unequivocal. Leading EdTech companies are using AI, big data, gamification and other techniques to improve teaching and learning practices in ways which are evidence-based, replicable and more effective than traditional face-to-face methods.

Returning to my column from last week, we clearly do not want everyone learning fully on-line all of the time but the EdTech sector has much to teach us and the Expert Panel is to be commended for recognising this in their report.

And now we wait for the government’s response …

Claire Field spoke to members of the Expert Panel about their report on the latest episode of the free ‘What now? What next?’ podcast. Available in your favourite podcast feed or listen online.


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