How the COVID-19 crisis can close Australia’s skills gap

How the COVID-19 crisis can close Australia’s skills gap article image

The global skills landscape has been “flipped on its head” with COVID-19, a new report from Swinburne University finds.

There has been mass labour market displacement with job losses predicted to far exceed the Global Financial Crisis, and unemployment forecasted to be at its highest since the Great Depression.

Many organisations have been forced to stand down staff while others have become insolvent.

Swinburne’s Centre for the New Workforce has released a paper that investigates the current skills gap in Australia, through a coronavirus lens.

Authored by Dr Ben Hamer, Adjunct Industry Fellow, Centre for the New Workforce and Dr Timothy Bednall, Senior Lecturer at Swinburne, the paper explores Australia’s rapidly transforming workforce.

Unprecedented disruption

The authors discuss how our workforce can prepare for a world post-COVID-19, noting that many jobs are undergoing major changes because of automation, digitization or augmentation.

These shifts have resulted in a gap between the skills needed by employers and the skills available in the labour market.

The skills gap has only widened as a result of the unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the report finds.

The disruption from the COVID-19 outbreak is likely to have a significant impact on the world economy.

But closing the global skills gap could add US$11.5 trillion to global GDP by 2028, the report finds.

Welcome to the new world

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the emergence of new business models.

And new ways of work are emerging, cognitive technology is advancing, global delivery models are the norm, and demographic shifts are changing the expectations of workplaces.

The local café now sells gourmet ingredients, businesses have ramped up their online presence including gyms offering virtual classes, drones are out walking dogs, classes are being taught on cloud-based collaboration platforms, and there has been a significant uptake in telehealth and other virtual healthcare delivery models.

Irrespective of whether there be challenge or opportunity, it nods to a looming and significant skills shortage and a huge mindset shift.

Increasing the skills base of the workforce can help individuals improve their career mobility, ultimately helping them to find more fulfilling work, the report finds.

In Australia, while 78% of CEOs believe that the availability of key skills is a top threat to growth, only 23% of employees say that upskilling is happening in their workplace (PwC, 2020).

To address this skills gap and support the post-coronavirus social and economic recovery effort, a collective effort is required across government, industry, educators and individuals, the authors say.

 Read the full report here.



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