Six forward-thinking industry leaders addressed the first Australian Industry Standards Skills Forum on future skills in Canberra on 11 September. Their message was clear: vocational education and agile workplace learning are essential for all businesses striving to deliver their current services, while also responding to intense technological change.

MC Kerry O’Brien, said that never in human civilisation has change been so intense and the world changing so fast, before moderating Q&A panel discussions.

Industry stakeholders, business owners, training providers and policy makers, along with students from three Canberra schools, heard how rapid advances in technology are changing the employment and skills landscape. All left the forum energised by discussions that highlighted the benefits of cross-sectoral collaboration.

The first panel talked about future skilling in the age of digital transformation. Professor Devinder Grewal (Australian Institute of Business) argued people must have foundation skills that equip them to learn throughout their lives. Jenny Lambert (Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) made the point that digital skills will be needed in every occupation, not just in STEM jobs. Petr Adamek (Canberra Innovation Network) emphasised the importance of an entrepreneurial mindset. “We need to be enablers in our own industries to help create opportunities.”

The second panel focused on new thinking about jobs and careers. Whether it be in the energy sector, aviation or the defence forces, having an eye beyond the horizon is essential to harness the power of technology, big data and new business models.

Dr Stuart Johnston (Energy Networks Australia) described how Australia’s energy industry is responding to a whole new way of generating and storing electricity. “Australia’s future skills and training frameworks need to be flexible and agile to allow the blending of traditional and new skills. This will be imperative to continue to deliver current services whilst enabling an environment that allows for innovation.”

Nat Nagy (Australian Transport Safety Bureau) explained the cumulative impact of drones on sections of the general aviation industry, which no longer provides the same training opportunities for novice pilots.

Lynda Douglas (Department of Defence) stressed the importance of nurturing transferable skills within the defence forces and beyond. As they responded to questions, the speakers painted a new landscape of skills, many of which can be applied across industries. Everyone, for example, is grappling with how best to collect, analyse and secure big data. Businesses are also realising the importance of valuing the experience of older workers, who also need new skills so that they can take on leadership and mentoring roles.

Robert Adams, CEO of Australian Industry Standards, observed that while technology is changing much about how we do our jobs, it is people who will transform the workplace. ‘Ensuring people have the right skills at the right time has never been more important’ he said.

Following the panel discussions, AIS Industry Managers facilitated industry specific breakout sessions where stakeholders provided further insights into the current and emerging skill needs of their sectors. This industry intelligence will feed into the 2019 Skills Forecasts and future Training Package development.

The conversation about future skilling continues next week in Brisbane. Prominent journalist Kerry O’Brien will facilitate two panels:

“Future skilling our people in an age of digital transformation”
Mr Paul Kahlert
General Manager, All Purpose Transport
Mr Steven Moon OAM
Chair, Maritime Industry Reference Committee
Managing Director, Projects Global
Mr Brett Schimming
CEO, Construction Skills Queensland
Committee Member, AISCGeneral Manager, All Purpose Transport

“Industry Leadership – new thinking about jobs and careers”
Ms Tara Diamond
Executive Leader, Australian Resources and Energy Group (AMMA)
Committee Member, AISC
Mr David Cross
CEO, Energy Skills Queensland

Media release: Australian Industry Standards