Skills of Tomorrow and VET: Why a Reskilling Revolution Matters

Claudia Reiners
March 11, 2021

Skills of Tomorrow and VET: Why a Reskilling Revolution Matters

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Disruptive technologies and market volatility are challenging the long-term skills viability of our workforce. Experts have called for a reskilling revolution to address the growing skills shortage and prepare Australians for the jobs of tomorrow

The move towards the future of work will mean today’s current skills will soon be outdated. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), one-third of today’s global skills will become obsolete by 2025. Workers, employers and education providers are now facing immense pressure to adjust to the changing skill requirements of our labour market.

Below, we unpack the skills of tomorrow and how our VET system can pivot to provide better training for emerging and existing workers.

What are the skills of tomorrow?

The world is facing a reskilling emergency – skills shortages are at an all-time high.

The double disruption, caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing digitisation of work, has created a skills imbalance. Many tasks that once required humans are now automated.

Disruptive technologies are changing the core skills of many occupations. Technology-related skills, especially in digital marketing and information technology, will become increasingly necessary by 2025.

Experts predict that today’s average worker will need to gain an additional seven digital skills by 2025 to maintain employability. 

This future of work will require workers to have the specialised skill sets to perform their roles and the capabilities to adapt, innovate and succeed in adverse conditions. As we move towards a skills-based labour market, workers will also need to develop their social capabilities and soft skills. 

Emerging specialised skills of the future

Specialised or technical skills are aligned to a specific vocation or task – they form the core skill competencies a worker needs to perform their duties. 

The nature of specialised skills and occupations will change as we continue to adopt more technology into our workplaces. The WEF has identified the top 15 emerging technical skills across the globe (figure 28).  

Among this list are three cross-cutting specialised skills (product marketing, digital marketing and human-computer interaction) that will be crucial to a variety of emerging and progressive professions.

top 15 skills

Emerging soft skills of the future

Soft skills are the non-technical, transferable skills that relate to how one works. They are the interpersonal attributes that underpin workplace collaboration and communication, self-management and career development. 

Human-centric skills are becoming more critical with the rise of AI and automation in the workforce. New technologies will place higher demands on workers to manage abstract thinking and problem-solving.

The top 10 soft skills for 2025 are:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation
  • Active learning and learning strategies
  • Complex problem-solving
  • Critical thinking and analysis
  • Creativity, originality and initiative
  • Leadership and social influence
  • Technology use, monitoring and control
  • Technology design and programming
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation

“Industry 4.0 will call for employers who possess strong interpersonal skills and a strong understanding of the complex relationship between people and advanced technologies,” says Janet Foutty, Executive Chair of the Board at Deloitte (US).

The pandemic has also heightened the urgency for self-management skills such as active learning, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility. Employees will need to act more independently and possess better communication skills, particularly in remote workplaces.

How the VET sector can keep pace with these trends

Industries are looking to large-scale, systematic reskilling efforts to address our future skill requirements. However, there is a growing consensus that our vocational education and training (VET) system isn’t adapting fast enough to meet the skill needs of Industry 4.0. 

Employers are reporting difficulties in finding VET providers who can deliver the training in disruptive technologies and Industry 4.0. 

Experts are encouraging cross-collaboration from organisations, industries and educational institutions to develop training solutions that best fit the changing nature of our industries. These solutions must analyse and optimise the range of knowledge and skills of current job holders and future workers. 

Our innovative reskilling efforts must be also flexible – expanding to short courses and longer formal qualifications – to accommodate learners of all shapes and sizes.

Training providers will especially need to scale up courses that deliver technical skills training relevant to the emerging skills and jobs of tomorrow. Our current VET market is struggling to keep pace with emerging trends of Industry 4.0, and providers have an obligation to our labour market to fill these shortages. 

A round-up of strategies for education providers

The dynamic nature of our education sector means we’ll continue to see advancements in course creation and delivery over the next decade. We’ve created a list of education strategies expected to bring opportunities for providers during Industry 4.0.

  • Pivot to micro-credentials and short courses.

    Online learning is here to stay. The technological transformation of Australia’s education landscape presents new opportunities for providers to succeed in a competitive marketplace. Providers can create micro-credential content by unpacking existing qualifications into bite-sized programs.

  • Build digital skill competencies.

    Industry 4.0 requires a higher level of digital literacy from all occupations and industries. Our VET sector is in a unique position to improve the digital proficiency of today’s students and tomorrow’s workers. Providers can develop digital competency units and embed these as foundational components across every program they offer.

  • Deliver tailored courses for blue tech industries.

    Experts have predicted the jobs of tomorrow will be those at the forefront of technology – there will be a pressing demand for greater blue tech skills over the next decade. Training providers should develop niche training programs to prepare workers for emerging blue tech industries.

There is an urgent need to future-proof the skills and professions of our workforce in the face of mass job displacement. The pandemic has dramatically accelerated our transition into a technologically-driven labour market.

As we accelerate towards a technologically-driven labour market, workers, employers, industries and our VET system must collaborate on a national reskilling movement towards the jobs of tomorrow.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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