Australia should take the short course to rebuild, says report
“From a worker perspective, incremental upskilling is important because it can be difficult to find the time to undertake full qualifications while in the workforce.”
From an employer perspective, businesses did not often need to train workers for full qualifications and “preferred to train them for the parts of qualifications relevant at the time”. As such, the PwC report recommends shorter courses “as an effective method of upskilling existing workers”.
It said “Australia is only scratching at the surface in terms of using incremental upskilling as a foundation for a lifelong learning system”.
Kirsty O’Connor, a construction manager with Simonds Homes, who already had a certificate IV qualification, recently completed micro-credentials to develop her skills in leadership and emotional intelligence.
She said the extra training was accessible because it was delivered online, allowing her to complete it at home.
“So I could have the opportunity to be with my family, still be a mum, still be a worker and upskill myself to further my career in the building and construction industry,” she said.
Andrew Shea from the Simonds Group said it delivered micro-credentials in specific workplace skills or areas of professional development.
He said “the time is right” for a national system that recognises the delivery of these kinds of courses.
Jan Owen, co-convener of Learning Creates, an alliance of organisations interested in Australia’s education needs including PwC and the Foundation for Young Australians, said a high proportion of students were disengaged from school and failing to complete year 12.
“How we currently define and measure success in learning is too narrow,” she said.
“We’re still thinking about and testing the best application of micro-credentials across education and employment. I don’t think we should see them as just ‘add-ons’.
“They can really help capture what people know and can do in real time.”
Tim Rawlings from PwC said micro-credentials were “quicker, cheaper and more targeted than full qualifications”.
“This makes them perfectly suited to people building skills through their career, particularly those who’s role are threatened by automation,” he said.
NSW Business Chamber chief executive Stephen Cartwright has supported the greater use of micro-credentials which he says could help meet the rapidly changing industry needs.
“Micro-credentials enable employers to quickly develop more tailored learning programs to meet specialised needs, instead of having to wait for the national qualification development system to catch up,” he said.
Unions NSW secretary Mark Morey said extra skills and training were always welcome, but micro-credentialling “must not come at the expense of investing in our TAFEs and universities”.
“Higher education has been badly neglected and needs greater support, not higher fees, to ensure we have enough health, caring and community service workers,” he said.
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Anna Patty is a Senior Writer for The Sydney Morning Herald with a focus on higher education. She is a former Workplace Editor, Education Editor, State Political Reporter and Health Reporter.