According to a recent Deloitte and Australian Computer Society report, Australia’s Digital Pulse, Australia currently has 600,000 ICT workers, 52% of these are working outside of the ICT sector. The digital economy contributed $79 billion to the 2013-2014 GDP which was 5% of total GDP and up from $50 billion in 2011. In another report, by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), the New Work Order that looked at job adverts in Australia, identified that having digital literacy skills added $8,648 per year to annual salaries.
The demand for ICT skills is set to continue with 100,000 extra vacancies by 2020, with increasing demand for postgraduate level skills. However, the Deloitte report showed that only 3% of Year 6 students frequently used ICT for technical tasks, and they predict a serious ICT skills gap. So how can we prepare our graduates better for the digital economy and how can we address the ICT skills gap?
A more integrated approach will be needed across school and university education to ensure that our students are better prepared for the workforce. Closer interworking with industry would help to identify trends early on and to adapt curriculum and work integrated learning capability building.
We know that the next generation of students born since 1995 – the Generation Zers will definitely have more jobs and careers than Generation Xers. To adjust to a world with different jobs and more regular jobs it will be critical for our students to have enterprise skills, career management skills, technical and ICT skills, digital literacy and financial literacy as well as developing problem solving strategies. The Foundation of Young Australians (FYA) is calling for a National Enterprise Skills Strategy and focuses upon school education, but universities will need to continue and deepen this skills acquisition and application through capstones and placements and more interactions with the work place. I would argue that the modern university curriculum will need to thread these skills seamlessly into all undergraduate and postgraduate offerings.
At Murdoch, we have changed our curriculum to adapt to this more changing global world. We have introduced transition skills to allow students to adapt from school to university, we have introduced research and interdisciplinary skills based units to build resilience and sustainable skills, and we have introduced capstones in all our courses to allow for placement and work integrated learning experiences and research study.
Beyond university, the need to create and foster strong international alumni networks will also help our students to compete internationally and create innovative and creative solutions for world scale challenges. Today’s students are competing on a global stage. There are 750 million 12-26 year olds in the Asia Pacific region, for example. For our students to be best prepared for the ‘new work order’ we will have to prepare them to be career capable and have the necessary skills to meet the challenges and opportunities. This means developing creative skills as well as enterprise skills. It is not just digital literacy that increases salaries, the same FYA report found that creativity added an additional $3,129 to annual salaries.
Educators are committed to providing our students with the best education we possibly can which means raising standards, ensuring our students are retained and that they have a supported experience that allows them to connect with the global community they live in. But we will have to work with schools and industry to ensure that our students have the digital, financial and enterprise skills that they will surely require to be successful in the digital economy.
Deloitte Access Economics. (2016) Australia’s Digital Pulse: Key Challenges for our nation – digital skills, jobs and education. Australia: Australian Computer Society. Last accessed online on 7th October 2016 at: https://www.acs.org.au/content/dam/acs/acs-documents/PJ52569-Australias-Digital-Pulse-2016_LAYOUT_Final_Web.pdf.
Foundation for Young Australians. (2015) New Work Order: Ensuring young Australians have skills and experience for the jobs of the future, not the past. Australia: Foundation for Young Australians. Last accessed online on 7th October 2016 at: http://www.fya.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/fya-future-of-work-report-final-lr.pdf.