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Skilling: A national imperative

The Australian Industry Group’s 2018 Workforce Development Needs Survey report has identified critical skill issues facing Australian businesses with 75 per cent of employers reporting skill shortages and 99 per cent are impacted by low levels of literacy and numeracy. Similar surveys have also been conducted in 2012, 2014 and 2016 enabling a time series comparison. The 2018 survey attracted responses from 298 companies employing a total of 111,209 employees., The survey found clear pressure points affecting employers: (1) skills shortages: most often in the technician and trades worker category, with difficulties recruiting for STEM skills, and new shortages for roles in business automation, Big Data and artificial intelligence solutions; (2) literacy and numeracy: an increase in low levels of literacy and numeracy is disturbing at a time when the workforce increasingly requires foundation skills that include not only literacy and numeracy but digital literacy and advanced soft skills; and (3) leadership and management: employers are prioritising technology capability improvements for managers, 62 per cent of whom believe a lack of leadership and management skills is having a high impact on the business (up from 56 per cent in 2016); this reflects the major changes needed in the way work is done and managed as entire business processes and organisational cultures are upended in the digital economy. The survey showed employers are intensifying their actions to implement strategies that alleviate some of these pressures. A greater percentage of employers than previous years (52 per cent) intend to increase expenditure on training in 2018. They are recognising in the age of digitalisation all workers will need digital skills at various levels.