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Analytical skills:

Overview

Data is becoming increasingly available, with ‘big data’ being derived from online activity, sensors, the ‘internet of things’, new analytical tools, and artificial intelligence. Workers in almost all industries, and across most roles, will be expected to use available data to derive value, and improve products and services. This may require the ability to analyse and present raw data or to interpret data analysis and apply findings.

While data analytical skills are increasingly important, other skills such as data management, information literacy, problem solving, critical thinking and creative thinking skills are also required by industries.

 

The cross-sector project, Big Data, reviewed current and emerging developments in big data skills, particularly in relation to data management, data analytics and data-driven decision-making to identify the related skills needs shared by multiple industry sectors. The project is now complete and led to the AISC approving the development of nine new big data cross sector units and two new skill sets which are housed in the Business Services Training Package.

 

Cross sector projects

COVID-19 impact

The National Skills Commission’s report State of Australia’s Skills 2021: Now and into the Future reveals that during the COVID-19 pandemic there has been an increase in demand for core competencies or ‘employability skills’ such as teamwork, planning and organising, and problem-solving skills.

The Australian Industry Standards report Industry Outlook 2021: Water Industry Reference Committee divulges the pandemic created a surge in the uptake of digital and remote connection technologies. With data analytics enabling digital simulation and modelling of water networks to collect real-time data from control systems and sensors, the report advised the workforce will require skills for the new technologies and the data analysis and management of them. The report also noted industry requires a flexible workforce with skills such as creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking.

Industry skills needs

The 2020 Future of Jobs Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) finds the top skills employers consider to be increasing in importance include critical thinking and analysis skills as well as problem-solving. For Australia’s country profile, the skills identified as being in high demand by the organisations surveyed were:

  • Analytical thinking and innovation – ranked number 1
  • Critical thinking and analysis – ranked number 3
  • Complex problem-solving – ranked number 7
  • Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation – number 13.

Following a referral from the Australian Government Minister for Education and Youth, the House Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training will inquire into and report on adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills in Australia in 2021-22.

The report Skills urgency: transforming Australia’s workplaces by the AiGroup shows Human skills such as analytical thinking and complex problem solving are seen as vital to future workforce capability. In addition, LinkedIn’s 2021 Grad’s Guide to Getting Hired shows analytical skills as the top skill employers are looking for. The National Skills Commission has also identified data analysis as one of the skills spreading most quickly across the labour market, stating in the report data analysis is trending in 61 occupations and emerging in 11 others.

Some specific examples of analytical skills that industries have identified as important include:

  • Data analysis, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Business Services
    • Electrotechnology
    • ESI Generation
    • Gas
    • Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure
    • Rail
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
    • Transport and Logistics
    • Visual Arts
    • Water.
  • Critical thinking, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Architectural, Surveying and Related Services
    • Corrections
    • Digital Media
    • Financial Services (Accounting and Bookkeeping)
    • Government Services and Local Government
    • Health (Dental, First Aid)
    • Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure
    • Water.
  • Problem solving, identified by the following industries and sectors:
    • Corrections industry
    • Government Services
    • Health (Dental, First Aid)
    • Manufacturing
    • Maritime
    • Property Services
    • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
    • Transport and Logistics.

Internet job postings

Internet job vacancy postings that contained requests for analytical skills were examined for occupational trends. This includes problem solving, critical thinking, troubleshooting, research and data analysis expertise. The chart below compares the percentage of internet job postings in each occupation (ANZSCO Major Group) that requested analytical skills.

Internet job postings that requested problem solving skills, by occupation (2018-21) 

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

Analytical skills were most often requested for professional, clerical and administrative or managerial positions. They were rarely requested for machinery operations or driving, labouring or community and personal service positions. This suggests that employers may consider these roles to be more restricted and technical in focus, rather than positions requiring higher-level analytical thinking.

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

 

There are a range of technical occupations for which analytical skills are commonly requested, from data and business analysts to medical and marketing related occupations. Businesses are eager to take advantage of analytical and data-based insights in order to drive productivity, add value in highly competitive environments, create greater insights to increase asset utilisation, and to tailor customer-focused solutions accordingly.

Case studies

Transport

The Transport industry in Australia comprises of the following four main sectors:

  • Aviation
  • Maritime
  • Rail
  • Transport and Logistics.

 

The need for analytical and related skills is driven by new technology and the need to work with and interpret data. These needs were identified in the 2021 Industry Outlook for the Rail industry sector, and is highlighted by the following quotes:

The advent of autonomous systems and trains increases the volume and complexity of information (i.e. data, train telematics, diagnostics of vehicle health), changing the role of remote operators significantly. Remote operators require higher-order skills in data analytics, problem-solving, and an understanding of autonomous systems.

The workforce will require basic digital literacy, data manipulation and data analysis skills, through to quality decision systems thinking and judgement making. Additionally, they will need to understand the impact of wearable technologies and how to interface with this type of technology.

The workforce requires customer service skills in interfacing between digital systems and customers. Having the right skills to determine and meet these expectations is key to improved and efficient operations. The ability to traverse data, find and interpret information effectively to meet customer needs is essential to enhance the customer experience.

Utilities

The Utilities industry in Australia comprises of the following four main sectors:

  • ESI Generation
  • ESI Transmission, Distribution and Rail
  • Gas
  • Water.

 

The need for analytical and related skills in the Gas industry are highlighted by the following quote from Industry Outlook 2021: ESI Generation Industry Reference Committee:

The ESI Generation industry is increasing its use of automation and digitalisation. Sensors and digital devices are being deployed to diagnose issues and optimise operations. Installation of such equipment highlights the role of data analytics and digital literacy.

The need for these skills is also noted in the Water industry, highlighted by the following quote from Industry Outlook 2021: Water Industry Reference Committee:

Smart technologies have enabled the industry to predict issues before they affect customers. The water industry needs to be agile in managing the relationship with customers. There is also a growing social expectation that organisations should provide increased customer service. The industry requires a flexible workforce with skills such as creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking and specialists who may create human-centred techniques such as design thinking. 

Corrections and Public Safety

The Corrections and Public Safety industry in Australia comprises of the following four main sectors:

  • Correctional Services
  • Defence
  • Fire and other Public Safety
  • Police.

The need for analytical and related skills in the Corrections and Public Safety industry are highlighted by the following quote from the Industry Outlook 2021: Corrections Industry Reference Committee:

The Corrections workforce need to manage increasingly large populations of offenders and provide individualised support. This requires them to have higher-order skills in communication, critical thinking, problem solving, empathy, victim awareness, relationship management, and self-management planning.

Updated: 29 Mar 2022
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