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Our August 2017 issue had a reprint of a 17/08/2017 article in The Mandarin by NSW Department of Education, titled  AI, automation & 21st century skills needs: what do they mean for education?

That article concluded “There is little doubt that for today’s kindergarten students to succeed in tomorrow’s more complex world they will need to be resilient to change and confident and adaptable learners, capacities which are developed through the mastery of subjects and development of skills.

For schools and education more broadly it will be more critical than ever to support engagement, encourage lifelong learning and create a culture of high expectations for all students.”

 

That message gains support from a November 14, 2017 CSIRO article in The Conversation, Demand for people skills is growing faster than demand for STEM skills. The article quotes from two recent reports, “The VET Era” and “Growing Opportunities in the Fraser Coast” which challenge the rhetoric around the importance of STEM skills in the digital economy, by revealing how demand for skills has changed over time. “These analyses show a major shift in the skills profile of the Australian workforce.”

Using ABS Labour Force data from 1990 to 2015, the authors show “a major shift in the skills profile of the Australian workforce. Essentially, increased reliance on technology in the work environment raises demand for more highly skilled workers, because the more routine work is automated.”

However, there is the caveat that “While it is good that more of us are working in more rewarding jobs, not everyone has benefited from this shift. Nor can the current winners in the digital economy afford to be complacent. As the capability of digital technology increases, a growing range of tasks (such as data analysis and diagnosis) can be automated.”

The CSIRO researchers describe how they linked Australian employment data with United States data on the skills and abilities associated with different occupations, to determine what types of skills we should now be developing. “The analyses reveal that, despite all the hype about STEM skills, occupations requiring communication skills are actually growing fastest.”

The CSIRO research shows that ”the STEM skills needed in a wide range of contexts and roles are those that involve working with (rather than programming) technology – skills such as the ability to think critically, analyse systems and interact with computers.”

The authors also point out the growing need for STEM professionals to combine their technical expertise with strong social skills, allowing them to make the connection between technological capability and social needs. In addition, there will be a need for entrepreneurial skills to create and grow the new economic opportunities.

The CSIRO researchers conclude that With strong communication, problem-solving and digital literacy skills, we can harness the power of digital technology to solve a customer’s problem, grow productivity and improve our world.”

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