Australia to build data tool for tracking local workforce, skills, labour market needs

The demand for digital skills is widespread, but computing skills are what will become a major need, according to the government.

The federal government has announced a range of measures targeted at addressing workforce shortages, change from digital technology, and the increased uptake of flexible working arrangements.

Among the measures is a new AU$10 million data tool that will look to provide real-time information about Australia's regional and local area workforce, skills, and labour market, said Stuart Robert, the Minister responsible for Australia's workforce.

"Data at a regional level will provide us with a better picture of the supply and demand, assist with workforce planning and mean that both business and government will be able to focus on better matching of skills and training to local needs," Robert said.

He also announced that migrants already residing in Australia would be fast-tracked into jobs where there are skill shortages. The workforce minister said the federal government would allocate AU$20 million over the next four years for fast-tracking active skills assessments for occupations with skills shortages, waiving fees, and fast-tracking assessments for migrants in Australia that are yet to undergo a skills assessment.

The AU$20 million initiative will also provide free employability assessments and support for migrants working at a skill level below their qualifications. Other measures include adding funding for industry-focused short courses at universities and starting work on pilot novel approaches to accelerating qualification completion times.

The measures come shortly after the release of the National Skills Commission's first State of the Skills Report [PDF], which found demand for emerging jobs in the digital, data, and online engagement sectors has primarily been driven by the increasing uptake of technology overall and a shift to online business models driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It noted, however, that there was more nuance to the common reference of STEM occupations being important for the future, explaining that computing skills specifically -- a group of specialised technical skills needed to respond to the digital world – are what will become the major need in the future.

The report added that while data and digital skills are among the fastest-growing emerging skills, further effort may be required to build base digital skills proficiency at all skill levels, not just the higher skill levels.

It also said that jobs with high proficiency in core competencies -- skills that are common to all jobs – will have less of a likelihood of automation. Within that group of core competencies, high proficiency in oral communication and writing are the least likely to be automated, the commission said.

To add depth to the common reference of STEM occupations being important for the future, the fine-grained skills-based analysis undertaken in this report suggests a more nuanced selection of skills across different disciplines is needed for the future.

Currently in Australia, programmers, IT business analysts, software engineers sit within the top five occupations that received employer-sponsored skills shortage visa grants in Australia.

Coles, meanwhile, has announced it is looking to hire over 70 digital professionals to join its ecommerce business as part of its digital transformation efforts.

The recruitment drive will focus on digital professionals with experience working in software engineering, UX and UI design, analytics, and product management and delivery.  

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