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The module provides small and medium size manufacturers with information and advice on the importance of education in preparing for and taking advantage of digitisation in the economy. This includes understanding the skills, training and qualifications required to operate in the digital economy and the implementation of Industry 4.0 in a business. Making decisions about the changes in the workplace as a result of digitisation and managing those changes for the benefit of businesses are key elements for success in the future and are addressed further into the module.

Topics covered in this module

  • Skills
  • Training
  • Apprenticeships
  • Graduates
  • Universities
  • Industry 4.0
  • Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeship Project
  • Managing Change
  • Where can I find out more?


New approaches to education, training, re-skilling, skills use and adjustment assistance to meet the fast-changing demand for new skills; is the key to maximising the benefits of a digital economy.

Workers will have to continuously update their skills to adapt to rapid technical change in the workplace.

A mix of skills are needed to boost worker participation in a digitalised economy as well as promoting policies and targets to promote their development and use.

Generic and specialist skills

To ensure the business can benefit from the digital economy and adapt rapidly to new and unexpected technologies, focus should be on promoting generic and specialist ICT skills and ICT-complementary skills. This includes foundational skills, digital literacy, higher-order critical thinking skills as well as social and emotional skills.

Basic skills are important, as are digital and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and their variants. Such variants include data analytics, programming and network deployment and maintenance as well as softer skills associated with content creation, design, organisational change and entrepreneurial creativity.

Creativity and problem solving skills

Successful digital companies now ‘fuse’ the technical and creative skills of their staff. Automation, robotics and artificial intelligence are heightening the importance of skills in creativity, problem solving, advanced reasoning, complex judgement, social interaction and emotional intelligence.

Foundation skills

The mastery of literacy and numeracy by the workforce is increasingly important to meet the challenges of the evolving economy.

Efforts should be made to raise the skills of those workers with weak literacy, and numeracy to enable them to fully operate in the digital workplace.

STEM skills

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are increasingly important for the competitiveness of Australian businesses. As technology becomes more advanced and more complex, STEM capabilities will be an entry level requirement for many new positions in the digital economy. These STEM-related skills will need to be complemented with communication and team working skills.

Institutional learning

Seizing digital learning opportunities requires a process of institutional learning, where workers are given sufficient scope to experiment with new tools and systematic assessment of outcomes which will lead to a business selecting the most effective practices.


In considering contemporary work patterns in a digital work environment, businesses should focus on broader training products: from a requirement to do a specific task, to a worker’s capacity for holistic workplace awareness and social interaction beyond a particular job.

It is important to find the right balance between technical task-specific skills and the essential, yet more generalist, work skills — and determining how generic any of these skills actually are.


Studying and retraining at various stages in worker’s lives is crucial for businesses as needs and opportunities change. Education and training has become a lifelong process.

The learning process can be broken down, leaving students with a menu of skills and competencies they can chose to acquire without necessarily completing a standardised academic programme.

University education may be part of the solution, but job retraining programs can be faster and often more focussed in addressing the needs of a business.

Workplace and Life Long Learning

Dedicated educational institutions may not have sufficient resources to meet the future need for re-skilling and training.

Although apprenticeships have become less popular in recent times, the demand for lifelong learning in the digital economy may lead to a renewed focus on workplace learning.

Almost everyone in the workforce will in the future need the ability to use technology to do their job.

Changing demands from firms, consumers, students and communities mean apprenticeships, and vocational qualifications need to deliver more general but also specific digital capabilities.

Training Pathway

Australian Apprenticeships remain a major training pathway providing work-based learning for the benefit of individual participants, employers and the Australian economy.

Apprenticeships are an effective tool to build workforce talent.

Through apprenticeships, businesses have the opportunity to train workers to meet their specific requirements.

Training an apprentice or trainee often encourages staff to rethink and challenge existing work practices. Productivity improvements can be a consequence of employing an apprentice or trainee.

A significant majority of apprenticeship employers report that apprenticeships raise productivity and worker morale across the board – not just among apprentices. This is because all workers benefit from a learning environment at work.


Industry can participate in university programs to be connected to deep learning and employability approaches for graduates.

Investing in the Right Skills

Whether or not employers play a large part in the delivering of education and training, stronger connections between education providers and employers are important to ensure that educational offerings stay relevant to students and business needs.

Re-skilling individuals making important educational investments, need to understand where the demand for workers is, the type of skills required for these jobs and the income earning potential associated with these jobs.

While STEM skills will be in demand with the uptake of digital technology, current concerns about the participation in STEM requires some effort from educators and businesses to make STEM subjects attractive to current and future students - especially females - as well as integrating them in a wider curriculum for all levels of education.

Work placements

Although development of ‘soft’ skills in students is on the agenda of some tertiary education providers, development and integration of specific programs in collaboration with employers is needed to ensure graduates are prepared for future workplace needs.

Exposing students to workplace experiences does not only give them an opportunity to practise what they have learned and to build new skills, it will also improve employability upon the completion of their studies. Whilst students are on the receiving end of new skills and techniques, companies significantly benefit from engaging with them as part of their studies.

Business Involvement

Even a small involvement can greatly assist a business. Students begin to become more employable and work-ready from any level of industry exposure. There are numerous ways to connect with students, and a business’s involvement can range from minor to extensive.

Examples include:

  • placement of a student in a new or established role
  • offering your business as part of a case study assignment
  • arranging a student to shadow employees in the workplace
  • hosting field visits for students in the workplace
  • having input into the type of learning students undertake by assisting to design or deliver curriculum or assessments that are relevant to industry
  • engaging research candidates to assist in scoping and conducting research projects.

The students’ benefits are maximised when their university integrates the authentic work activities into the learning in their course, thereby creating opportunities for them to understand the links between education and work. Universities term this Work Integrated Learning (WIL), combining theory with practical learning experiences in workplace environments.


Greater involvement of businesses working with education providers is key in ensuring the skills needed by businesses are generated.


For Australian businesses to be innovative and internationally competitive they will need to treat innovations that disrupt their businesses and workplaces, including digital disruption, and reshape jobs as the norm.

Success lies in innovating and differentiating themselves from competitors. Their profitability leads to further job creation for the business.

Universities often provide a link into innovative practices and education for workers to focus on digital aspects of the business.

As companies meet the challenges of new business models, new ways of working, and new technology, there will need to be a focus on the ability of higher education graduates recruited to meet these challenges.

New Higher Education Models

The exploration of new higher education models that embed fluid knowledge and capabilities for energy, initiative, problem-solving and teamwork is likely to better equip graduates and businesses for change.

Business will need graduates who develop in-depth disciplinary knowledge but also develop skills and abilities that are not simply specific to one area.

Capabilities important to foster in higher education students include intellectual openness, skills for retrieval, methods of enquiry ethics, and discovery.

Relationships with Education Providers

Business – University links are a critical factor in industry competitiveness.

To enable the best outcome for a future competitive Australian workforce and business, closer collaboration between universities and industry is required at all levels.

The extent to which business is able to adapt and develop, will greatly depend on how well education and business sectors collaborate.

By establishing strong partnerships between companies, educators and the community, the quality and capacity of the education systems can be improved for the benefit of students and businesses.


The term Industry 4.0 encompasses the digitalisation of production processes based on devices autonomously communicating with each other along the value chain. Production units become “smart factories” where computer-driven systems monitor physical processes.

Driven by digitisation, Industry 4.0 is concerned with the next stage in manufacturing and will connect the impacts of emerging technologies and digitisation across all industries, such as energy, transport and infrastructure.

Automation, sensors, cloud computing, big data analytics and machine-to-machine communication are driving new business opportunities through integration with the global supply chain. Industry 4.0 technologies make it possible to gather and analyse data across machines, enabling faster, more flexible, and more efficient processes to produce higher-quality goods at reduced costs.

This in turn increases manufacturing productivity, shifts economics, fosters industrial growth, modifies the profile of the workforce and ultimately changes the competitiveness of companies.

Skills for Industry 4.0

Developing new and different skills utilising the right digital technology will be vital for the successful uptake of Industry 4.0 technology. This has major implications for our education and training provision, as well its intersection with work.

The apprenticeship system sits neatly in this space. It is capable of providing a high-quality, fully integrated learning and employment experience at the leading edge of economic transformation.

The challenge for this new world is to ensure that all learners, including apprentices, gain a robust and rigorous base upon which to build skills and experience over the course of their working life.

Interdisciplinary Skills

Skill requirements for Industry 4.0 are more interdisciplinary than those for basic digital literacy. Industry 4.0 creates new operational and organisational structures relying on decision making, co- ordination, control and support services – a much more complex environment.

There is also a need to co-ordinate between virtual and real machines and plants in production management systems. This results in significantly higher demands being placed on all members of the workforce in terms of managing complexity, higher levels of abstraction and problem solving.

Employees will be expected to act more on their own initiative, have excellent communication skills and be able to organise their own work.

Investment in Organisation Change

To be successful, given the adoption of more sophisticated digital technologies, businesses will need to invest in organisational change and new business models that include investment in skill development for workers.

The performance and positioning of firms, as well as the specialisation and competitiveness of industries and economies in an Industry 4.0 environment are shaped in part by the skill composition of the workforce.

There is increasing evidence comparative advantages do not depend on a specific set of skills but on the way these skills are distributed among workers, as “skill bundles”.


Apprenticeship framework

The project utilises an apprenticeship framework to deliver a new Diploma and Associate Degree in Applied Technologies. The aim is to create an apprenticeship model that will support the higher skills needed for Industry 4.0.


The project is led and managed by the Ai Group and implemented in collaboration with Siemens and Swinburne University of Technology. It is anticipated that other companies closely associated with Siemens will also join the project.

Focus of the program

The program, focusing on Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things, IT Disruptive Technologies, Engineering, Design and Business, will enable employers to train future technicians with a higher skill level to meet their increasing needs in the knowledge economy.

The program combines the best of university and vocational learning models to improve Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) skills of technically minded participants, incorporating skills for business and design.


The qualification will meet the particular needs of industry with a focus on the adoption of high-level technology skills and the tools required for the future workforce.


To dramatically increase the productivity of your business, such as taking on various aspects of digitisation, significant change will most likely occur. The key variables of change are people, tasks, structure and technology. Skills in the management of change, such as those below, are imperative for successful change in a business.


Strong leadership skills, careful planning and effective implementation are needed to introduce change. A number of steps should be undertaken when introducing change; including creating a common vision, defining and communicating the changes and addressing workers’ concerns.

Creating a "Critical Mass" of Supporters

Majority support is needed for a change process to be successful. When something new is introduced around 10% of employees are likely to be early adopters who would like to try something new, have been waiting for change and will actively support it. Around 10% of the organisation may actively resist change, while 80% of employees will be followers, who will ‘wait and see’ before actively supporting the new changes.

The skill in leadership and change management is to focus on getting the 80% of employees to become active supporters. The process may be accelerated by identifying and involving key people and informal opinion leaders, who are looked up to, enabling them to bring their followers along.

How to Motivate People to Change

To successfully implement change, leaders need to rely on skills of influence and persuasion. Good leaders use these sources of formal and informal influence to motivate and achieve goals set out at the start of the change process.

Some motivational factors are maintenance factors that must be kept at a satisfactory level to avoid de-motivating employees. Other motivational factors can create inner desire and include different social needs for affiliation or achievement.

Failure of Change Initiatives

A number of common reasons have been found for failed change initiatives, including poor leadership and change management skills, senior staff not being fully committed and a lack of direction and focus.


Tackling Foundation Skills in the Workforce

Progressing STEM Skills in Australia

Australian Apprenticeships

Making Apprenticeships Work

Industry 4.0 Higher Apprenticeship Program

Uni students- good news for your business

Connecting for Productivity- University and industry Partnerships

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