The economic drivers of ‘industry-ready’ employees – Technology and Innovation
With every company on their own, unique journey of learning how to accelerate business improvement and build a culture that embraces constant technological change (a.k.a. digital transformation), the pressure on management to deliver more with less resources whilst remaining compliant only continues to rise as customers continue to demand more value from products and services. The ability to innovate within operations is critical for competitive advantage today, with the promise of step-change business process efficiency and new product development opportunities available to those who manage to unlock it before being disrupted by the competition.
So, if management are being pressured with ‘squeezing more from less’, the expectation is that this pressure will flow downstream and employees will feel it too. Short of working more hours in a day, process and technology innovation are essential to keep up with this constant demand of ‘more from less’. The challenge for employers though is to ensure that technical skillsets of employees remain relevant with technology and innovation trends, as failure to do so will force their hand into hiring new employees to bridge a skills gap. This is especially the case for new digital skills.
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Herein lies the problem we face today with the digital trend, employers have not kept up with advancements in technology and innovation and are now forced to bridge a skills gap. We have all seen by now the accelerated rate of change, and with it, employee skillsets becoming outdated and some even obsolete. This accelerated pace of change also impacts universities who are busy working on how to better collaborate with industry and economic authorities, to play their part in a sustainable solution that ensures student skillsets remain relevant at the time of graduation and improves the value proposition of tertiary education - to provide education that makes students more ‘industry-ready’. Collaborative movements such as the Future of Work are representative of this, all linked to the economic development of Australia to remain globally competitive.
So, who’s responsibility is it to keep technical skillsets up to date for students and employees and what can we do to manage ‘skills gaps’ efficiently in a world where the pace of technology and innovation continues to accelerate?
Employers demand ‘industry-ready’ employees
Employers, both large and small, realise the very real cost of developing an employee before they become a productive asset – this especially applies to graduates with little industry experience. Whilst there will always be some development cost and certainly benefits of investing in organisational development, employers are demanding that new recruits come ‘industry-ready’ so they can be more agile, to accelerate business improvement and innovation.
These demands from employers really are a combination of knowledge around the importance of building relationships, following business process and technical problem-solving skills required to resolve issues and implement change in todays’ often ambiguous environments. If you look at most job advertisements today, it is clear that employers demand knowledge in all of these areas to be ‘industry-ready’.
The demands for ‘industry-ready’ employees are also evident through actions, such as a manager placing a new employee in a position with little support or overlooking candidates with no industry experience during a job interview. This poses a challenge for employees who are new to industry or have little employment experience and creates an environment of unrealistic expectations for both employers and new employees – especially for graduates who lack both industry and employment experience. We believe that the expectation gap of employers, through their requirements or actions, demanding that all new employees be more ‘industry-ready’ will only widen as the rate of change continues the accelerate.
Employers can mitigate the risk of outdated or obsolete technical skills of their employees by better identifying and managing technical skills gaps before they appear. This coupled with universities helping students become more ‘industry-ready’ from the outset and other training providers helping job-seekers become more employable, provides the foundation of a sustainable solution to help employers, and therefore our economy, keep up with the pace of change. This translates to the development of a more efficient ecosystem to upskill job-seekers as an enabler for increased organisational agility and innovation.
How universities can play their part to supply ‘industry-ready’ employees
Universities today have realised the very real threat of digital disruption to the tertiary education industry, for current services provided to students today. With micro and nano degrees available on-demand from leading global universities through platforms like Coursera and EdX, this means high quality education is now available to any Australian from the comfort of their home, and is only a matter of time before employers see these degrees as viable education alternatives when considering an employee for a job.
Ultimately for universities to remain relevant, they need to provide a stronger value proposition to students that offer more of a guarantee around gainful employment. Starting with a better understanding from industry and major employers around what can help make graduates more employable, together with economic authorities to ensure education remains relevant with advancements in technology and innovation.
The challenge though is how universities and training providers are to play their part in a sustainable solution to this problem, in getting future students and employees to keep their technical skillsets up to date in a world of accelerating change. This is why the Future of Work collaboration is so important and is a great example of industry, academia and economic authorities coming together to produce better outcomes.
Whilst universities are collaborating with both industry and economic authorities to redesign education services, they're also learning how to better utilise research capability to drive product and process innovation for themselves and as-a-service to industry. Some examples of innovation from Australian universities include new revenue streams from underutilised assets, including facilities, equipment and faculty educators, and investment in innovation centres & startup accelerators in attempt to attract new business opportunities to university grounds.
Some of the flagship universities around the world acknowledge the importance of ‘industry-ready’ employees, including Harvard Business School, and require the placement of MBA students in a strategic management setting to practice what they’ve learnt in order to graduate – resulting in a better-quality manager for employment. As a result, employers still see the credibility of managers who have post graduate qualifications from these flagship universities and are willing to pay for the time saved upskilling. This investment also promotes organisational agility.
We believe students would likely still pay high tuition fees if there is more guarantee of gainful employment post-graduation and a directed focus on helping students become more ‘industry-ready’ is certainly one option in achieving this.
Digital upskilling services to bridge the ‘digital skills gap’
We believe training providers will begin to shift their focus to ‘industry-ready’ package offerings, rather than technology or product-specific training, to help meet demands from employers for ‘industry-ready’ employees. This collaborative effort will help Australian businesses become more agile (more capable of innovation) and is necessary to keep up with the pace of change. For employers to remain nimble, the supply chain of human resource development needs to remain agile and relevant also.
Realising this economic trend, Data Engineering has tailored digital upskilling services for workplace professionals to accelerate employee readiness for busy employers. In collaborating with universities to help bridge the ‘digital skills gap’ and increase the supply of ‘industry-ready’ employees, Data Engineering offers a range of ‘industry-ready’ upskilling packages for a number of key professional roles in business operations today.
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So, for a business improvement, analyst or engineering professional looking to upskill themselves with knowledge and experience in new technology, systems and tools use, a large focus of our upskilling service is the education for types of data used in industry today, how to work with popular self-service analytics tools and build a dashboard report that communicates real business value. This falls in line with the first part of our company mission around empowering knowledge workers with self-service capabilities.
The technology ecosystems out there including cloud services, analytics and automation, are diverse and rapidly expanding, making it near impossible to keep up to date with the latest trends. Digital upskilling services are also a great option for busy managers to stay up to date with trends in technology and to be confident that employee skillsets remain relevant.
Digital upskilling use case – data analytics skillset
One such upskilling program that we have developed is around the data analytics skillset for a professional whom has a base understanding of operational process and systems and can leverage their technical background to work with both data and new technology. This package can be applied to any graduate with a degree in IT, computer science or engineering or an experienced professional who has domain knowledge and needs to upskill themselves with the digital skills demanded by employers around data analytics today.
This program has been designed and tested with graduates who now provides analytics and prototyping services for Data Engineering.
As the pace of change continues to accelerate, finding a sustainable solution that ensures employees and job-seekers have a means to keep their technical skillsets up-to-date, is one of collaboration between industry, universities, economic authorities and training providers to bridge and manage technical ‘skills gaps’ impacting capability within business today.
Personally, I see a shift in tuition content delivered by universities from a strong technical focus towards one that includes accelerated learning and development - teaching students how to learn efficiently, effectively and how to develop an innovative mindset. Soft-skills are becoming extremely important for employers, it is arguable whether or not these skills can be learned prior to work experience however a foundational understanding of these skills should continue to be mandatory.
I believe if universities focus on providing tuition and experiential programs that best align to industry requirements (so keeping industry close to the development of students) and training providers focus on accelerated upskilling programs for ongoing professional development, rather than predominately focusing on product-specific training, this collaborative effort would be a sustainable solution for managing technical skills gaps in an environment where the pace of change continues to accelerate, and for Australia’s economic development into the digital era.
Principal Consultant – Operational Intelligence