Australia at risk if we don’t incentivise the workforce to up-skill

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Australia at risk if we don’t incentivise the workforce to up-skill
We need to invest in making online platforms more accessible by people.
Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash

The digital skills gap requires urgent action from business leaders and governments alike.

By 2025 Australia will need 156,000 new technology workers, with 87 per cent of jobs now requiring digital skills

If we don’t take action, Australia’s international competitiveness will continue to be held back by a growing digital skills shortage. 

Digitally-savvy workforces are an urgent requirement in today’s world with businesses across Australia’s economy feeling the pinch. A key driver of this is consumer expectations for seamless and convenient digital experiences from proactive and personalised interactions to connected experiences across digital channels.

As international borders remain closed, we cannot look overseas to import these essential skills. We must look at ways to up-skill workers across industries to prepare them for a digital present. We also need to consider those workers who may have lost their jobs, faced with considering whether their skills or industry remains viable, and what opportunities are available for them to re-skill.

Industry required to step-up

While the federal government recognises the importance of digital skills, with investments made in the Digital Economy Strategy such as digital skill cadetships and advanced scholarships for emerging technologies, industry needs to take more leadership in equipping workers for the future.

In a recent YouGov survey commissioned by Salesforce, one in ten managers agree that a low level of importance was given to address the digital skills gap within their organisation. Seventy-nine per cent of managers surveyed said that there were barriers within their company that are stopping them from acquiring additional digital skills.

The most common road blocks include a lack of resources to invest in digital transition, a lack of knowledge and expertise, and having a short-term focus rather than focusing on the long-term. Other barriers include a lack of relevant training and education courses, having a culture resistant to change, and a lack of suitable candidates with the right digital skills.

This all adds up to new skills being put in the too hard basket. Inertia and ‘the way it’s always been done’ isn’t going to cut it for Australian companies with ambitions to grow and to meet the expectation of customers benchmarking home grown businesses on the experiences delivered by companies like Xero and Amazon.

The opportunity for government

It isn’t just business, governments must also look at their own digital services, and how having the right people armed with the digital know-how to help is vital for the country to not only respond to a crisis like COVID-19, but to also build trust with the public.

Boston Consulting Group and Salesforce research, The Trust Imperative 2, found half of Australian customers expect governments to match or exceed the high standards set by the best private sector companies. 52 per cent said that their trust in government services had increased since 2020 based on the overall quality of digital services.

Great services can only be created by digital-savvy talent and by closing the skills gap there’s an opportunity to support not only improved innovation and performance, but also trust.

Incentivise workers and businesses to acquire new, in-demand skills

If we are to get there, we must start by making online learning platforms more accessible to people to up-skill and re-skill. 

At Salesforce, we’ve seen a clear appetite for access to online learning tools through our free online learning platform, Trailhead. Since the start of the pandemic there has been a 37 per cent increase in sign-ups to the platform - adding to a community of over 1.8 million learners. 

Skill Finder, powered by the world’s top technology platforms, is another example of how online learning platforms can democratise learning opportunities for all Australian’s to level-up their knowledge. The centralised micro-skills marketplace offers hundreds of online courses to develop critical digital skills from machine learning and artificial intelligence to digital marketing. 

Since its launch in October 2020, the model has up-skilled approximately 5,000 people. While engagement levels have been strong, incentivising workers and businesses will be key for continuous engagement in learning programs - boosting overall levels of productivity. 

For small businesses, incentives such as the provision of vouchers will be essential to encourage the adoption of digital platforms. It isn’t just for the sake of those businesses however, workers will also need to have the necessary digital skills to utilise those platforms to help businesses succeed and grow. Deloitte Access economic reports found small businesses using our technologies results in: 32 per cent more leads; 26 per cent more deals; 26 per cent happier customers and 36 per cent faster app integration.

The path forward 

Encouraging people to learn from a diversity of backgrounds, whether they’re in work or changing career, is essential to preparing our communities for not only the future of work, but succeeding in the present.

From improving a company’s competitiveness to productivity, investing in digital skills isn’t just about powering the bounce back from the pandemic. It’s crucial if we are to deliver on evolving public expectations and keep up with global competition. 

Sassoon Grigorian is Senior Director of Government Affairs & Public Policy, APAC & Japan at Salesforce.

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