As COVID-19 accelerates changes to the future of work and Fourth Industrial Revolution, the need to quickly reskill and train workers has become a priority for governments globally as many look to ‘Build Back Better’1.
Workforce transformation, often framed in the context of job losses due to automation and digitalisation, is a complex issue for governments to address both within public sectors and the broader economy. For example, the rapid rate of digital change in the education sector has called into question the adequacy of existing pedagogical models, which can often treat tertiary education, such as a bachelor’s degree or traineeship, as one-offs.
The federal government has taken steps to address these issues with the creation of the National Credentials Platform (NCP). A tender for initial user experience (UX) research to guide development of the initiative was announced on the Digital Marketplace.
Digital skills have been lacking in public and private sector workforces, noted by strategies such as the Digital Health Workforce and Education Roadmap, with the exponential growth of new technologies potentially worsening the skills shortage.
The NCP is part of the government’s package of digital initiatives, announced late last year, to promote economic growth and job creation and address ongoing goals for digitalisation of services. The platform “will standardise access to education records, making it easier for students to compile and present their credentials, and for employers to verify prior learning”, according to a statement from then-Education Minister Dan Tehan in September 2020. While the first stage of the NCP is to enable access to student transcripts, further development will see integration with micro-credentials.
Micro-credentials are short-form courses that focus on the delivery of specific practical skills within a couple of months. They differ from long-form traditional degrees, but are similar to individual units undertaken throughout a semester. Micro-credentials aim to provide verifiable accreditation that can be used in a professional environment and may represent the future of higher learning and a pathway to lifelong learning required for digitally-enabled jobs.
Micro-credentialling has existed for some time, in the form of coding bootcamps and other short-form, often digital skills classes. Recently, Australian universities and TAFE started to offer micro-credentials to promote the uptake of digital skills required in the future workforce. Some micro-credentials are also ‘stackable’, in a sense that people can use basic micro-credentials to develop more advanced skills in certain areas but to do so they will require a centralised system of verification such as the NCP.
In addition to micro-credentials the use of platforms, now ubiquitous across numerous public sector organisations at the state and federal level, will enable better data creation, collection, and analysis. Advanced data analysis to inform future workforce planning was considered key to the Digital Health Workforce Roadmap, to help anticipate and prepare for future health staffing needs.
The most recent National School Reform Agreement (NSRA), signed between the states and federal government, provides funding for state education departments to enhance “national data quality, consistency and collection to improve the national evidence base and inform policy development”. Another feature of the NSRA is the creation of a national Unique Student Identifier (USI) which will identify students throughout their lifelong learning journey (primary, secondary and tertiary). Ensuring secure access and identity arrangements will also be key to realising the NCP.
1 Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery 2020, https://www.recoveryplatform.org/assets/tools_guidelines/GFDRR/Disaster Recovery Guidance Series- Building Back Better in Post-Disaster Recovery.pdf