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Australia needs to upskill

Australia needs to dramatically upskill its workforce as an urgent national priority if we are to thrive in the digital economy, according to Business Council of Australia CEO Jennifer Westacott, the Australian Financial Review.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to be an easy fix as we require a massive change in the education system across the board. We’re already sinking in global educational league tables so the requirement is there for a dramatic cultural shift if we’re going to move beyond just merely coping with disruptive technological change.

For starters, Westacott says we have to stop thinking our future prosperity lies in churning out university graduates and get rid of the stigma associated with vocational education and training (VET).

“We have to stop the decay of TAFE and the apprentice system and encourage innovation in that system. VET has to be on an equal footing with the university sector, it has to be better designed,” Westacott says.

And while it’s not quite year zero, she suggests the sector is in dire need of a pretty solid redesign and the responsibility should be evenly shared between the government and business sectors with governments rethinking how it funds education and business really stepping up to take control of training the workforce. Moreover, it has to be better federated rather than the grab-bag of state-based systems we have now.

“Education needs to be funded around the student and it should continue throughout a person’s whole life. This means embracing lifelong learning and creating a more modular and occupation focused education system that’s not the linear model we have at present. It means giving people better foundation skills and ensuring they have the capacity to think, so we create a more resilient (and agile) workforce.


Upskilling Australia (Australian Financial Review)


Northern Ireland Executive /Flickr / CC 2.0