The Australian Labor Party will offer 5000 digital and ICT places in TAFEs free in order “to help prepare Australians for the jobs of the future” if the party is returned to power in Saturday’s Federal Election.
The announcement, made at the Box Hill TAFE on Monday by Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Husic, Shadow Minister for Skills, TAFEs and Apprenticeships, Senator Doug Cameron, and the Labor candidate for Chisholm, Jennifer Yang, said efforts would be made to ensure that half the seats went to women.
“In government, Labor will also task its Apprenticeship Advocate to refresh and expand the digital traineeship pathway to help tackle digital skills shortages,” the Labor trio said.
They said these moves were part of a broader push to drive uptake of digital skills by Australians “to help us better adapt to future technological change”
“The Apprenticeship Advocate will partner with industry, unions, TAFE educators and experts to expand the reach of quality apprenticeships and traineeships in the ICT sector,” Husic, Senator Cameron and Yang said.
“The Advocate will work with the partners to ensure high standards of on and off-the-job-training, leading to transferrable skills and qualifications.”
Justifying its moves, Labor said the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte Access Economics had reported in the 2018 Australia’s Digital Pulse report that the economy would need an additional 100,000 ICT workers in the next five years.
And for the country to become a global digital leader, about 200,000 workers were needed. The report said only 5000 domestic graduates were emerging annually, well short of demand.
Also cited was the Foundation for Young Australians who reported in 2019 that with 70% of young people acquiring skills that would be redundant by 2030, the mismatch between skills supply and demand was a pressing economic challenge. In 2016, the FYA had noted that the demand for digital literacy was up by 212%, a statistic that would have a significant impact on 4.3 million young people.
In the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index, Australia’s ranking had been more or less static in the last five years, rising by only one place since 2012.
The lack of digitally qualified workers was having an impact, with one indication being the fact that Telstra in 2019 said it was opening a new staff hub in India, because it was unable to recruit workers with the necessary ICT skills in Australia.
Last week, Labor announced that, if elected, it would boost the digital skills of Australians through the injection of $25 million to drive skills development in regional Australia.
Victoria’s Innovation Minister Martin Pakula was also present for the announcement.