COVID-19 has in many ways refocused attention on the need for digital skills and capabilities. The impact of the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation, especially automation, across all sectors.
While transformation creates efficiencies, it also reinforces the need to reskill large numbers of the workforce. And while globally, Australia performs well on digital literacy capabilities, a significant portion of the population still does not have access to digital services or digital literacy skills.
To future-proof our workforce and build resilience, reskilling must be made a priority, and all sectors have a responsibility to place emphasis and resources toward the “Reskilling Revolution”, an initiative being driven by the World Economic Forum.
Government naturally placed to lead
The public sector has a significant opportunity to be the leader in the Reskilling Revolution. Governments across Federal, State and Territory employ a large proportion of the Australian workforce and have the ability to share learnings with the private sector.
Currently, the Federal public sector is demonstrating promising internal initiatives such as the Digital Professional Stream, which aims to improve the digital expertise of the Australian Public Sector workforce. A key reason this initiative is successful is it was developed through a senior reference group including the CIOs from Home Affairs, ATO, Services Australia, Defense and representatives from Finance and PM&C.
Cross departmental collaboration and SES-level participation created visibility and momentum for several initial activities including targeted skills uplift, sample skills assessment and workplace flexibility to leverage diversity in digital talent.
However, to continue innovating there needs to be broader engagement of functional leaders across the entire C-Suite, as well as coordination across a greater number of different agencies. Senior leaders from the CEO, CIO, CMO, CDO to Human Resources and other functional leaders, need to collectively define and agree organisational aims mapped to a future workforce capability and citizen expectations. It also requires the public sector to partner closely with industry.
Harnessing the momentum
There have already been some strong examples of automation and digital transformation within government. A recent example is the launch the COVIDSafe app, which demonstrated how the public sector can mobilise, act and collaborate with industry to fast track innovation to help address community issues. By May, the app received over five million downloads, with one million downloads occurring in the first day of release.
Ultimately, citizen expectations are changing as we become more comfortable with using digital services. During COVID-19, there has been a significant increase in Australians turning to government websites for support and information. With more Australians spending more time interacting with – and becoming reliant upon – digital government, trust is increasing.
This presents an opportunity for government to harness the momentum of recent initiatives to improve digital services for citizens. It also presents a platform to strengthen trust in digital infrastructure, and to reinforce the benefits of highly secure and encrypted data for personalised experiences.
Pathways to reskilling
Reskilling the Australian workforce will require a clear roadmap and objectives. It’s important to first understand what roles will be automated and what digital skills will be required, before executing a clear strategy and pathway to reskill those impacted employees into the growth areas of tomorrow.
The impact of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) is not impacting industries or demographics equally. Some industries or roles are better suited for automation. This is where government can become a leader in reskilling – by utilising data to understand which industries and workers are most likely to be impacted and developing initiatives and pathways to ensure they aren’t disadvantaged or left behind.
For example, roles for women in more process driven jobs are more at risk of automation. Therefore, there is a reasonable expectation that government develop strategies to encourage women into career pathways that include technology, digital creativity, data science, AI or psychological sciences. Such an approach will help avoid inequalities across the workforce.
Partnering with industry
There is a clear opportunity for the public sector to share learnings, partner and collaborate with industry to lead reskilling and digital transformation. Industry has seen the impacts of AI technology firsthand, and many businesses have successfully embarked on reactive resourcing realignment and reskilling programs. Through these shared learnings the public sector can gain valuable insights from Australia’s leading companies who are already using AI technology, augmentation and automating processes.
While there is still much work to be done, future proofing the Australian workforce is achievable with a clear pathway to reskilling our citizens and increasing digital literacy skills. And, in partnership with industry, government is in a strong position to lead the nation in the Reskilling Revolution to ensure all Australians are digitally ready.
Adobe’s Reskilling Revolution report unearths valuable insights and rich areas for discussion. These will assist organisations to consider important factors that can help us face this unprecedented change and upheaval. Find out more by downloading the report here.
Written by John Mackenney, Principal Digital Strategist, Adobe