Grappling with emerging skills shortage

Future requirements for workforces to effectively and successfully utilise emerging technology were the subject of statements from a NSW government minister and researcher on July 24.

Addressing government, university and TAFE leaders at the University of NSW (UNSW), NSW Minister for Skills and Tertiary Education, Geoff Lee, outlined that boundaries between universities and the vocational education and training (VET) sector need to be dismantled.

Lee identified the skills shortage as the driver for this coming together of education providers, as well as the rapid pace of emerging technologies. Smoothening pathways between secondary and tertiary education was a focus of Lee’s speech.

“We need to work with universities on professional apprenticeships and build on our co-delivery of courses. We need to concentrate on the uptake of traineeships and apprenticeships, removing barriers and encouraging the transition between schools and TAFE,” said Lee.

With the emergence of Industry 4.0 technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity, and data analytics, industry needs to be involved in curriculum design and training, according to Lee.

UNSW Faculty of Law Professor Lyria Bennett Moses separately highlighted how NSW curriculums need to be updated to enable students to handle AI and automation in the future.

“While not every high school student needs to be able to code a machine learning algorithm, young people need to understand what’s going on behind these systems so they can properly assess their use as future citizens, consumers or in a professional capacity,” said Bennett Moses.

One of Bennett Moses’s recommendation is for ethical reasoning and diverse knowledge and skills to be considered alongside technical teaching of computer systems and that these lessons be embedded across disciplines.

“[I]t will be critical that we foster digital literacy and that our students are skilled in designing creative solutions to take full advantage of emerging technologies,” said NSW Department of Education secretary, Mark Scott. “Equally, young people need to be able to engage with the profound ethical questions that these technologies raise for us all.”