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Adaptability and learning skills:

Overview

As demand for skills is constantly adapting to new technologies and job requirements, people will also need to enhance their ability to adapt to new situations and acquire new skills. As the world of work becomes more flexible, workers are expected to take more responsibility for their skills development.

Some of the ways in which industry need workers to be adaptable include:

  • showing awareness of changes in the industry
  • showing resilience and embracing change
  • being adaptable in a changing industry, changing environments and changing markets
  • adapting to new technologies and new ways of doing business
  • showing a proficiency and willingness to learn
  • being engaged in career development and planning
  • maintaining skill relevancy, upskilling and multi-skilling
  • responding to situations with flexibily and innovation
  • showing innovation and creativity
  • being entreprenurial.

Industry skills needs

Generic skills

In their 2019 Skills Forecasts, IRC’s ranked a series of 12 generic skill categories, in priority order.

Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (which aligns directly with Adaptability) was, on average, the highest ranked generic skill (out of 12) across all Skills Forecasts.

 

Priority skills

In terms of specific references to these skills in the Forecasts, adaptability related skills were also identified to a moderately high degree by industries that reported on priority skills in their 2019 Skills Forecasts.

The three main adaptability related skills, which were identified most frequently within priority skills lists in Skills Forecasts were:

  • Emotional intelligence, identified by the following industries:
    • Sector & Development
    • Direct Client Care and Support (Community Services & Health)
    • Personal Services
    • Ambulance and Paramedic
    • Children’s Education and Care
    • Complementary Health
    • Enrolled Nursing
    • First Aid
    • Local Government
  • Resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility, identified by the following industries:
    • Community Sector & Development
    • Direct Client Care and Support (Community Services & Health)
    • Personal Services
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
    • Children’s Education and Care
    • Dental
    • Enrolled Nursing
    • Technicians Support Services
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
    • Retail and Wholesale
  • Self management, identified by the following industries:
    • Community Sector & Development
    • Direct Client Care and Support (Community Services & Health)
    • Personal Services
    • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
    • Ambulance and Paramedic
    • Complementary Health
    • Dental
    • First Aid
    • Technicians Support Services
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
    • Client Services
    • Sport, Fitness and Recreation.

Additionally, ‘Use of new technologies and materials’ and ‘Changing skill needs arising from new technology’ were identified by Recreational Vehicles and Textiles, Clothing and Footwear, and the Education Industry identified ‘Demonstrating an ability to adapt to changes and continuously deliver high quality training’ and ‘Undertaking and applying research to training practice’.

 

    Internet job postings

    Internet job vacancy postings that contained requests for adaptability skills were examined for occupational trends. This includes change management, process improvement, problem solving and creativity. The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested adaptability skills.

    Internet job postings that requested adaptability skills, by occupation (2016-19) 

    Source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight™ Real-time Labor Market Information tool.

    Adaptability skills were most often requested for managerial and professional possitions, and least often for labourers, machinery operators and drivers.

    The following graphic shows examples of occupations where adaptability skills are highly requested, and some examples of the types of requests employers are making for those in these occupations.

    When asking for adaptability skills from potential employees, postings often ask for the ability to cope with or lead change, as well as learning quickly on the job. The rate of change in many industries is likely one reason for these requests.

    Case studies

    Community Services

    The Community Services sector is one component of the Community Sector and Development industry, and provides support to individuals, families and groups, enabling them maximise their potential and to enhance community wellbeing. Community support services are diverse and range from care and information activities to referrals and interventions. The workforce encompasses a diverse range of job roles and functions which are multi-levelled as well as requiring multiple skill areas, often overlapping with other sectors such as housing, health, education, aged services and disability.

    The Community Sector and Development IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identifies the three main adaptability related skills ‘emotional intelligence’, ‘resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility’ and ‘self-management’ as essential skills for the Community Services workforce. This is highlighted in the following quotes taken from the forecast:

    Whilst technical skills to perform job tasks are imperative, employers in the short-to-medium future will be looking beyond this and have indicated that it will be important for workers in their organisations to be equipped with key soft skills: teamwork and communication, emotional intelligence, resilience, stress tolerance and flexibility and self-management.

    The development of skills in caseload management, including self-management, resilience and emotional intelligence, is critically important for community services workers.

    Education 

    The education industry is broad, encompassing the teaching of primary, secondary, vocational and higher education roles. Within this industry, the vocational education and training (VET) sector contributes to the growth of Australian businesses by preparing workers with the skills that industry needs, providing training to potential and current workers in almost every industry in the Australian economy. The Training and Education (TAE) and Foundation Skills (FSK) Training Packages are critical elements of the Australian training system, playing central roles in the training of all learners that engage in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

    The Education IRC’s Skills Forecast has identified adaptability as an essential skill for VET sector workers, which is highlighted in the following quotes from the skills forecast:

    In addition to specialised skills in subject areas, key current competency needs for VET sector workers include…demonstrating an ability to adapt to changes and continuously deliver high quality training and undertaking [and] applying research to training practice.

    [The] increasing diversity [of learner groups] requires VET practitioners to have the capabilities to understand individual learner needs and implement person-centred strategies to meet them. This requires an emphasis on interpersonal skills in the midst of the technical application of training and assessment capabilities.

    Updated: 03 Sep 2020
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