BETT Highlights Part 3: Functional Digital Skills


An increase of digital skills both within and outside the IT industry was a strong theme at BETT.

Digitales attended several vocational learning workshops to identify the digital skills needed to function in the workplace. As in past years, apprenticeship providers promoted vocational learning as the alternative to Higher Education.

The same workshops asked how training providers can increase their responsiveness to employers.

Skills gap

UK training providers claim the biggest barrier to growth is the ‘skills gap’.

Is there bias in this claim?

If not, is the situation similar in Australia?

We asked the CEO of Skilling Australia and Author of Job U, Nicholas Wyman, for comment. He says:

‘There is no question that we have a ‘skills gap’ in Australia (or as I call it people without jobs and jobs without people). For example – my company currently has 120 Apprenticeships on offer, some in traditional trades and some in new and emerging industries in medical technology and IT – many for instance like Automotive Technicians which in 2016 are about diagnostics more than grease and grime – yet young people won’t take these jobs.’

Soft skills

Olivia Change from Business Insider on 24 February spoke about the increasing need for soft skills such as “business development, sales and contract management” in addition to hard skills including “forklift operation”.

She also identified the top 10 most desirable job skills in every state of Australia.

Digital skills

The BETT educational technology show in London also reminded participants that mid-level technical jobs need increased ICT skills.

Digitales questioned the statistic offered in the Further Education workshop that ‘35% of all jobs will require digital skills’.

Nicholas Wyman offered an Australian perspective:

‘I think most 21st century Jobs will require some form of digital skills – there is no question that technology is transforming the way we live. The country is adjusting to globalisation and technological change.’

A further comment highlighted:

‘Globalisation, economic reforms and technological improvements are changing the nature of work and the types of jobs that will be available in the future – and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills will play a major role.”

An earlier Digitales blog post discussed STEM and STEAM at BETT.

Functioning literacy

How do we define literacy?

Is it the OECD (2009) definition?

Literacy is the ability to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate effectively in society (OECD, 2009, p14).

The Australian Curriculum tells us that:

:Students become literate as they develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions to interpret and use language confidently for learning and communicating in and out of school and for participating effectively in society. Literacy involves students in listening to, reading, viewing, speaking, writing and creating oral, print, visual and digital texts, and using and modifying language for different purposes in a range of contexts.”

Digital literacy

Innovation and Business Skills Australia (IBSA discuss digital literacy as ‘the ability to use information and communications technology (ICT) such as computers and the internet’. In the same introduction IBSA state that digital literacy – ‘underpins a nation’s capacity to provide individuals and groups with equity of access to social opportunity, and is a necessity for participation in the Digital Economy.’

And from Nicholas Wyman of Skilling Australia:

“In order to have young people entering the labour market with the capability to meet the growing demand for workers with STEM skills, we need to increase the number of students undertaking STEM studies in senior secondary school, and then in post-secondary education and training.

One solution is forming partnerships between schools and industry provide opportunities for students to engage with the world of work and better understand the relevance of their learning to jobs and post-school pathways – an example is P-TECH or Pathways in Technology schools being piloted in Victoria this year by the Government in Geelong and Ballarat.”

Our thanks to Nicholas Wyman, CEO of Skilling Australia and author of Job U for his comments.

Which skills are prioritised in your workplace—soft, digital, technical, other?