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Digital skills:


We are currently in the midst of an explosion in new technologies, which are reinventing much of the way that businesses are run. This has significant implications for the workforce, which needs to evolve and be agile in order to keep up with this technological expansion.

Digital skills, which are becoming increasingly important, and are a priority for many industries, can include coding and programming; development and use of robotic and automation technologies; leveraging ICT skills in business; and exploring the world of cloud computing and the Internet of Things. 

In 2014 the UK Digital Skills Taskforce1 considered the implications of this rapid digital change and identified four ‘categories’ of occupations based on their requirements for digital skills: 

64 per cent of IRC Skills Forecasts identified this skill as a priority

  • the ability to evaluate, configure/ program, and use complex digital systems (46% of new jobs)
  • the ability to use digital technologies to purposefully and confidently communicate, find information and purchase goods/services (37% of new jobs)
  • have skills to actually build digital technology (typically software development, but including creating complex Excel macros or 3D printing data files) (10% of new jobs)
  • require no digital skills (7% of new jobs).

This aligns with projections from The Foundation for Young Australians2 who identified that in the near future approximately 90% of jobs in Australia will require computer skills.

There are currently four cross-sector projects related to the impact of technological advances on the workforce being undertaken by the Australian Industry and Skills Committee. They aim to address common skills needs, minimise duplication and consolidate existing training units. One project is looking at developing Digital Skills across industries. Another project Automation, is looking at the workforce skilling implications in relation to the use of robotics, drones and remote operation systems. The project Supply Chains is examining the implications of the major change underway across and within supply chains due to the impact of automation, robotics, big data and other new technologies. The project Cyber security is reviewing current and emerging developments in cyber security skills, particularly in relation to data confidentiality, protection and privacy, and identify related skills needs shared by multiple industry sectors.

Industry skills needs

Digital Skills are ranked as the 2nd highest-priority by industry, with 64% of individual IRC Skills Forecasts listing them as a priority for their workforce. In the IRC’s ranking of generic skills, Technology was ranked 4th highest (out of 12).

The Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining industry ranked digital skills the most highly (with 60% of the priority skills in their IRC Skills Forecast being digital skills).

Unsurprisingly, digital skills are also a particularly high priority for the Information and Communications Technology industry and the Aeroskills industry (in both of these industries, 40% of the priority skills in their Skills Forecasts were digital skills).

60% of the priority skills listed by the Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining Industry were digital skills.

40% of the priority skills listed by the Information and Communications Technology Industry and the Aeroskills Industry were digital skills.

For Chemical, Hydrocarbons and
Refining, these included: 

  • Automation
  • Drone operation
  • Digital literacy skills.

For Information and Communications Technology, these included:

  • Application development
  • Cloud computing
  • Internet of Things
  • Automation
  • Data analytics
  • Cyber security
  • Digital and digital literacy skills.

For Aeroskills, these included:

  • Digital programming
  • Electronics
  • Information technology.

Of the 35 industries that identified digital skills as a high priority, just over a third (35%) were interested in more general digital skills (i.e. ‘Computer skills’, or ‘Technology and digital literacy’); while the remaining 65% sought more advanced or specific skills for their workforce (i.e. ‘Big data analytics’, ‘Coding skills’ and ‘Automation/robotics’).

 Industries prioritising general digital skills:  Industries prioritising specific digital skills:
  • Community Services
  • Education
  • Health Services
  • Personal Service
  • Tourism, Travel and Hospitality
  • Wholesale Retail.
  • Animal Care and Management
  • Aquaculture and Wild Catch
  • Australian Forest and Wood Products 
  • Automotive
  • Electrotechnology 
  • Food and Beverage Production
  • Government
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining, Drilling and Civil Infrastructure
  • Racing 
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Transport 
  • Utilities.


Case studies

Manufacturing industry cluster

This industry grouping consists of 10 IRC industry sectors.

The following six manufacturing IRC industry sectors identified specific digital skills priorities for their workforce:





Chemical, Hydrocarbons and Refining Automation

  • Digital literacy


  • Electronics
  • Generation 3 electrical wire interconnect systems (EWIS)
  • Remote monitoring
  • Digital programming
  • Robotics 
  • Data analysis

    Process Manufacturing

    • Digital literacy/IT skills
    • Design and coding skills.




      Manufacturing and Engineering

      • CNC & robotic programming


      • Technology

      Manufactured Mineral Products

      • Automation and robotics

        These quotes, sourced from specific industry Skill Forecasts within the Manufacturing industry grouping, highlight why digital skills have been identified as a priority in these industries:  

        Workplace and job design are being impacted by new technologies which are revolutionising automation and requiring workers to develop new skills including digital programming, advanced electronics, robotics and data analysis and new ways of working. (Aerospace IRC Skills Forecast).

        Unless the industry is able to improve the foundation skills of its workforce, there will be little opportunity to take advantage of this technology.
        Workers will need sound foundation skills and various STEM skills including design and coding skills. 
        Computer literacy skills are considered essential.  (Polymer Processing IRC Skills Forecast)

        While robotics and automation in manufacturing is not new, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) which allows machine-to-machine communications and real-time data monitoring is driving the move to “smart manufacturing”. 

        Increasingly jobs will require digitally literate workers who are able to analyse and respond to data provided by the machines in their workplaces. IoT will also facilitate the so-called Industry 4.0 or the fourth industrial revolution. (Manufacturing and Engineering IRC Skills Forecast).

        Construction, Plumbing and Services industry

        The Construction, Plumbing and Services industry identified digital literacy as one of their key workforce priorities in their IRC Skills Forecast, with a range of digital technologies identified as having “the potential to impact the job and skilling requirements for future workers”. These include:

        • 3D printing and production
        • Prefabrication
        • Building Information modelling (BIM) technologies
        • Automation
        • Robotics and remote operation
        • Virtual reality
        • Artificial intelligence.

        This quote from the Construction, Plumbing and Services IRC Skill Forecast highlights the need for digital skills in this industry:

        Technological change is having an increasing impact on the operations of this sector, particularly in areas such as automation, use of new products and processes (e.g. prefabrication) and the use of software to manage the construction lifecycle. 

        1   UK Digital Skills Taskforce 2014, Digital Skills for Tomorrow’s World, <>.

        2   Foundation for Young Australians 2015, The New Work Order, retrieved from: <>.

        Updated: 29 May 2018
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