How to develop tech and data skills in the workforce

 In his first speech to Australia’s technology industry recently, prime minister Anthony Albanese addressed the chronic shortages of tech skills. While he admitted it would be good in the short term to fill those vacancies with skilled migrants, his longer-term vision was for a skilled-up Australia. The new Jobs and Skills Australia agency, he said, would “make sure that the training and education that we have are purpose-built for this century, not the last century”.

It's good to hear that the Federal government has to reskill the workforce high on the agenda. For CEOs, it’s one of their top three most pressing concerns - with more than three-quarters of those surveyed by PwC global saying a lack of available talent was a threat to their growth.

Historically, Australia has struggled to keep its most talented workers at home and continues to face a talent drain from other English-speaking countries. This is particularly true for its creative industries, according to the Australian Broadband Advisory Committee.

How can organizations speed up reskilling?

It makes the question of what institutions can be doing to develop their employees’ skills in both technology and human skills ever more urgent. And it is the subject of a timely webinar to be co-hosted by Coursera and HRD.

In Coursera’s 2022 Global Skills report, the online course provider sets out how the Great Resignation and automation are driving stronger investments in human capital as institutions prioritize developing the digital and human skills of their existing employees.

Yet although some companies are on the front foot, they are in a minority. Only 23% of Australians report that upskilling is happening within their workplace, according to PwC.

“More employers are identifying a critical need to reskill staff to make the business more competitive, but cannot move quickly enough to make the changes, particularly within those sectors that rely heavily on frontline staff,” says Sue Turk, Managing Director at Coursera.

The webinar will explore ways HR can develop and lead a reskilling strategy. Talent transformation in most organizations will take time and high-potential employees need to be identified quickly to enable skills transformation to influence business success. 

“An open and inclusive dialogue between leaders and staff can enable productive discussions around skills transformation and highlight where and how redeployment can add value to the organization,” says Turk.

A robust talent strategy will be clear about what increased investment needs to achieve. It will include technology platforms that can enable business leaders to build and grow highly skilled teams for the future. And it will target training in human skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, leadership, change management, and resilience - which will all have a strong impact on wellbeing and motivation, as well as help to keep talent within Australia, says Turk.

HR leaders can also address these skills challenges by focusing on 'role-based' learning which is tied to business outcomes, helping to improve overall productivity and competitiveness.

Turk also encourages companies to look beyond their usual talent pools when seeking to expand their tech base and to consider employees who may have transferable skills or show potential for their abilities to communicate and problem solve.

Remain relevant

With the rapid pace of technological change, HR leaders also face the challenge of helping technically skilled staff up to date. One successful joint venture has been Adobe’s partnership with Coursera to offer AI and machine learning education to engineers.

Thousands of Adobe employees, primarily engineers and those in other technical roles, completed AI and ML-focused coursework through Coursera. That knowledge helped engineers develop new ideas for AI-powered features that can be incorporated into product development.

“With the help of Coursera, Adobe engineers have gone on to develop innovative new capabilities that strengthen Adobe’s position as a leader in digital experiences,” says Turk.

Coles has been another beneficiary after collaborating with Coursera to introduce skills-based training to their workforce. In the company’s annual engagement survey, Coles saw a 10% increase in engagement among team members who responded positively as a result of being offered opportunities to develop skills relevant to their interests.

HR leaders are increasing their emphasis on providing skills training to help drive employee retention and accelerate their company’s transformation efforts.

As more and more companies get on board with developing their existing talent and retaining staff, it pays for astute business leaders to lay the groundwork by investing in outcome-driven learning programs - the webinar from Coursera/HRD opens the door.

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