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Analytics helping prepare NSW’s future workforce


Topics: Data Analytics; Digital Transformation; ICT Strategy; NSW.

Data analytics is helping pinpoint the skills Vocational Education and Training (VET) students need to find employment in the modern workforce, with the New South Wales Data Analytics Centre (DAC) identifying “reasonably substantial mismatches between what skills VET students will graduate with in certain parts of NSW, and what jobs are actually available in those areas”.

Setting out to identify skills gaps and gluts in NSW’s vocational education, DAC CEO and Chief Data Scientist Ian Opperman says the unit was successfully able to match the skills and attributes that students obtain through VET courses with the skills and attributes that employers are seeking.

According to Opperman – speaking at an AIIA’s Education in a Digital World briefing event on 16 March 2017 – it is these types of data-driven insights that can inform the design of better service delivery models; and, in the context of education, provide a clearer picture of what learning in the modern world should look like.

Opperman also said the sophistication of data-driven decision making, and the reliability of data-driven insights, is improving as more data is collected and capabilities improve.

Introduced in August 2015, the DAC’s chief purpose is to aggregate and analyse WofG data and generate insights from data by ‘cross-pollinating’ datasets from government and non-government sources. The power of data emerged as a key theme in the 2016-17 state budget, with the DAC receiving $17 million over four years to continue its WofG data analytics work.

Also speaking at the event, NSW Department of Education Executive Director, IT Customer Experience and Service Delivery Scott Thomson said that the rapid pace that careers are changing makes it difficult to prepare young people for the future, and that there needs to be a departure from traditional thinking that bases learning around the careers that students want to pursue.

Thomson said that although Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects have been identified as key areas to direct student learning, education also needs to address “the other bits that go with that, because having the technical knowledge without the creativity and flexibility of thinking to apply that knowledge and solve problems is less useful. It really is that rounded-out view that we need to work towards for students”.

Going forward, Thomson says a STEM education will become the “platform” to develop the “agility and flexibility students need to navigate the careers and lives that will exist for them beyond school”.

“Things like coding are more about teaching a process that can be transferred and applied to a whole lot of contexts in the future. These are the key and essential skills in the future”, said Thomson.

Children are often “information rich but experience poor”, according to Thomson, meaning that they have access to unlimited content, but are not well-equipped to understand, rationalise or communicate the information they are consuming.

In terms of ICT in schools, the goal is for technology to act as an enabler, rather than as a learning tool in isolation. Accordingly, environments that facilitate tech-enabled learning, and put student needs at the centre, will define school ICT ecosystems of the future.

Also speaking at the event, University of New South Wales Deputy Dean and Engineering Head of School Professor Maurice Pagnucco outlined a similar vision for preparing tertiary students for the modern workforce – including a shift towards “soft skills” like teamwork, and the development of agile thinkers.

“At the heart of what we’re seeking to create is flexible learners who have the ability to move from one career to another. In a sense, it’s about learning how to learn”, said Pagnucco.

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