A joint initiative of leading education and employer bodies, the Australian Technology Network of Universities, TAFE Directors Australia, the Australian Industry Group and AlphaBeta, called for 12 key actions to help the transition to a new workplace.

“Covid-19 has created sudden and drastic disruptions”

“Covid-19 has created sudden and drastic disruptions within Australia’s economy, workplaces and education sectors. In just six months, it has triggered higher unemployment, accelerated digitisation, and a shift towards growth industries, such as health, technology and advanced manufacturing,” reads the report that outlines the first step in the initiative.

It focuses on helping Australians adapt through up-skilling and re-skilling initiatives.

“Improving education outcomes and helping younger Australians navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing world” is a clear brief for the country’s new education minister, Alan Tudge, who was announced December 18.

“We must use the opportunity of these closer collaborations to create innovative new models of learning that help prepare all Australians for work,” the report continued.

However, the ATN Universities – comprising Curtin University, Deakin University, RMIT University, University of South Australia and University of Technology Sydney – also highlighted the “thousands of international students” they help to “obtain the qualifications they need to secure entry into the full-time workforce”.

The rapid industry and nature of work change means that “‘one qualification for life’ is effectively no longer fit-for-purpose and a lifelong approach to skills acquisition is required”, it said.

Along with “shorter, targeted courses”, such as micro-credentials to encourage continuous learning, higher education should work closer with Vocational Education and Training to “make it easier for individuals to move between these sectors” through Advanced Diplomas and apprenticeships, the paper recommended.

Engaging online learning experiences will not only enhance experiences, but will also improve access to learning and improve digital literacy among the workforce, it suggested.

The document also called for modern, innovative and high-quality learning models with adequate funding and accreditation approaches.

The Australian Qualifications Framework should prioritise knowledge, skills and application over “narrowly focused” progression through hierarchical levels of education, and individual skills accounts and skills passports should be explored.

Investment from the tertiary education and training sector, government and industry should be aligned with high-value industries and jobs to help the Australian economy, it continued.

A national workforce development strategy would “clearly articulate” the needs of industry, government and the tertiary and training sector, and collaborative learning hubs will “facilitate enterprise- based training, greater collaboration and commercialisation of research”.

Education and training should be designed around critical skill needs rather than occupations to improve workforce mobility between occupations and industries and enterprise-based learning – work-integrated learning, industry-linked research positions, and employer-driven apprenticeships, cadetships and internships – should be encouraged.

“Australia’s economy is at an inflection point,” the report concluded.

“Up-skilling and re-skilling Australia’s workforce to meet industry’s needs will be imperative”

“The pandemic has seen sudden increases in unemployment and the acceleration of digitisation as well as a shift towards new, high- value, high-skilled industries such as health, technology and advanced manufacturing.

“Up-skilling and re-skilling Australia’s workforce to meet industry’s needs will be imperative for ensuring a sustainable and effective economic recovery.”

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