This is the final post in a 5-part series. Visit part 1: Digital skills In the Australian context, part 2: The digital divide and social inclusion, part 3: Skill development for a digitally-focused future economy, and part 4: Policy approaches to inclusive digital skills.
Digital skills are needed across all industries and most occupations. This is the case across a number of levels, whether they be basic or generic skills, at higher occupation-specific level, or if the role is a digital-specific job. As discussed in previous posts in this series, there are a number of problems within Australia's digital skills system, but governments and industry are working to overcome many of these.
The focus of this last post in the series is to explore ways in which Australian Apprenticeships, and organisations working within this sector, can support the improvement of digital skilling.
Australian Apprenticeships as a pathway
Australian Apprenticeships are one pathway into occupations across the full spectrum of digital skills levels. Apprenticeships and traineeships can be undertaken from a Certificate II to Advanced Diploma level across 50 industries ranging from traditional trade-based to professional roles.
Both apprenticeships and traineeships provide entry-level employment to young workers, including those still at school or recent school leavers. They also provide a method to enter or reenter the workforce for adults, or to upskill or reskill for existing workers.
As a supported pathway, Australian Apprentices receive formal training through a training provider towards their qualification, supervision within the workplace, and support from an Apprenticeship Network Provider or Group Training Organisation (GTO) when required.
Outcomes for Australian Apprenticeships are better than other methods of post-school education. Graduate employment rates and graduate wages are similar to those of university graduates, but with the added benefit of having been paid throughout their training and with minimal debt.
Supporting social inclusion
The digital divide and exclusion of many groups from Australia's digital landscape is a difficult issue to overcome. Some elements that facilitate this divide, such as infrastructure issues, must be managed through government or industry investment to ensure better access for everyone. Australian Apprenticeships may provide solutions for some other issues, particularly with support of government or industry.
Australian Apprenticeships can provide a much-needed break into the workforce for many disadvantaged Australians. Group Training Organisations in particular play an important role in providing a pathway for diverse groups, including those facing disadvantages that influence their digital exclusion.
Once in an Australian Apprenticeship, several of the factors that influence digital exclusion can be overcome more easily. Access to low-cost or free digital devices can be obtained at the workplace or training provider, and the apprentice or trainee has a stable wage which can facilitate access to other devices. Some apprentices or trainees may be eligible for loans that also enable the purchase of equipment, including digital devices.
During training, apprentices and trainees will develop their basic digital skills. Support can be made available for those who need to build their foundational digital skills, such as how to use a computer, before moving into generic (e.g. using emails or online timesheets) or occupation-specific (e.g. using a specific piece of software or hardware) digital skills training.
Promoting higher level digital training
There are many emerging and rapidly changing occupations in core digital industries. These include areas such as data analytics, digital marketing, digital governance and regulation, cyber security, and programming and digital development.
As training products are designed to meet the needs of these occupations, Australian Apprenticeships can be a strong and suitable pathway for new staff to join these industries. Employers often prefer training staff in their own systems and work practices, but would like their employees to have formal qualifications – a need that Australian Apprenticeships can help meet.
Organisations working across the Australian Apprenticeships sector can promote this pathway to businesses engaged in emerging occupations as a method for skilling staff to meet their needs. Businesses will get the additional benefits associated with employing an apprentice or trainee, including:
- Support throughout the apprenticeship or traineeship
- An overall positive return on investment, and,
- Engaged staff who typically stay with the employer or in the industry of their training.
Supporting and informing policy and initiatives
In addition to the promotion of Australian Apprenticeships to new employers and businesses, organisations across Australian Apprenticeships can support ongoing and upcoming initiatives from governments and industry.
There are many organisations within Australian Apprenticeships, including Group Training Organisations and Apprenticeship Network Providers, who have strong connections to industry as well as government and peak level organisations. These connections, and the understanding of skills needs for all parties, enables organisations to inform changes in policy.
These organisations can also work to implement elements of new initiatives. They can do this by providing the support services they currently deliver, such as recruitment and job matching, mentoring, and other forms of ongoing support for employers and apprentices and trainees.
New and innovative support systems, initiatives and skills delivery may also be delivered in conjunction with existing organisations across the sector. There is the potential to use a traditional model of employment, which frequently meets the needs of employers and employees, in innovative ways.