Short courses

Short courses fail on policy options

Last week, Stuart Robert, the acting education minister, said he would spend $5 million on testing a “skills passport” that would initially help match workers with tech jobs.

“Where there are skills gaps to fill, we want Australians to have the first chance to get that opportunity and our skills passport approach will enable rapid upskilling and retraining,” said Robert. in a press release.

The trial will be conducted by the Australian Technology Network and is supported by the Tech Council of Australia.

An almost insatiable demand

ATN executive director Luke Sheehy said the passport would provide assurance that participants’ completion of micro-degrees was recognized by employers and other universities. It would also help workers understand the skills they need to acquire to move into a new industry.

“Students want the confidence of a college-backed passport where they can prove what they’ve done, that it has meaning and impact on their careers,” Mr Sheehy said.

The notion of a skills passport coincides with the establishment by the American online giant Coursera of a physical presence in Sydney.

Sue Turk, its first managing director for Australia and New Zealand, said there was an almost insatiable demand for short, skills-specific courses from employers and students.

“Business needs are constantly changing and employees need to learn new skills at an ever-increasing rate to perform their jobs,” Ms. Turk said.

“Individuals are interested in guided projects like professional certificates and online degrees. From a business perspective, this is enterprise-wide strategic learning and role-based development, and a balance between soft and hard skills, and for government, it’s about developing high-growth jobs.

Ms Turk said Coursera recently introduced “Clips”, a collection of over 10,000 small, searchable videos and lessons to help learners quickly develop the skills they need to do their jobs successfully.

Universities are both content providers, like Macquarie University’s hugely popular clip on how to use SUM and AUTOSUM in Excelwhile also providing content from other institutions as part of their courses.

However, the size and complexity of the online short course market means Coursera’s courses would not be recognized as part of the ATN’s skills passport. Micro-credentials supported by other online platforms such as Google, LinkedIn Learning, Cisco, and Amazon would also not be supported.

Microcredit market

The federal government has taken steps to address the rise of micro-certificates and how to manage them. In 2020, he announced the creation of a micro-certificate marketplace that would allow students to compare options. It is still under development.

It commissioned a report on Australia’s Qualifications Framework in the 2017 Budget, but has yet to respond to the final report. But he has tasked PwC with reviewing a micro-certificate framework that was handed out last November.

While the complexity of a skills passport and marketplace makes progress difficult, Tech Council chief executive Kate Pounder said any initiatives that help make it easier to navigate the micro-certificate landscape are useful.

“This informal training boom works for people who have an idea of ​​what the jobs are, where they want to go, and don’t really care whether the training is accredited or not,” Ms Pounder said.

“But there is probably a much larger share of Australians who want the certainty of knowing that their learning is accredited and will be recognized by an employer. I think that’s kind of the missing puzzle.

Digital learning expert Claire Macken, from RMIT University, said the ability to map skill acquisition, especially in tech-related jobs, would potentially help increase the number of people in the workforce. computer work.

“University diplomas do not show the acquisition of skills, only the general subjects taken. It’s a lot more nuanced,” Dr. Macken said.

The Tech Council has projected that Australia will need one million people in tech jobs by 2025. That means an additional 260,000 people in four years.

More than 60% of students currently studying computer science in universities come from abroad, and half of them will return home after completing their studies.