Tuesday, 02 July 2019 10:35

Increasing need for greater digital literacy in workforce: report Featured

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National broadband network provider NBN Co says there is an increasing need for digital literacy in the workforce as high growth jobs, such as management and professional jobs, demand digital literacy skills almost seven times more frequently than occupations that are becoming less prevalent.

According to NBN Co, a study — Bright Futures: Laying the foundations for the workplace of tomorrow — it commissioned, also found that by 2030, three in four Australians would spend more time using STEM and entrepreneurial skills at work.

And, the study, undertaken by Alpha Beta for NBN Co, also predicts that time spent on problem solving was expected to double to 12 hours per week, while use of STEM skills would almost double from five to nine hours per week.

NBN Co chief deployment officer Kathrine Dyer said: “The world of work is set to transform in the next ten years so it is vital Australian students have access to infrastructure such as fast broadband to help them develop STEM and entrepreneurial skills no matter where they live.

“Since 2014, the NBN access network has connected about 220,000 regional households with children that had below average or no internet, and has increased the average speeds in these households by 2.7 times, increasing to 3.3 times for remote households with children.

“We’re proud to be equipping the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow with the infrastructure that helps them develop in-demand skills and stay ahead in a competitive market. We are also pleased to be partnering with ABCN to bring STEM skills to life for our participating schools.”

Other key findings:

  • Enabling entrepreneurship: The NBN access network is helping to power a rise in entrepreneurship, and helping to contribute an estimated additional 49,000 - 93,000 entrepreneurs by 2021, with 40% of these reported to be women.
  • Adapting students: Primary school students in NBN-connected areas spend 75 minutes more per week completing homework online than in those non NBN-connected areas.

NBN Co says its STEMpreneur initiative, undertaken in partnership with the Australian Business Council Network (ABCN), draws on this “future of work focus” to deliver a virtual education program to eight participating schools across Australia.

The program combines face-to-workshops and virtual mentoring to coach students as they develop a business idea to help overcome a challenge in their community using their STEM and entrepreneurial skills.

NBN Co says that this year, there was a strong focus on the environment among participating schools – with their business ideas including a robotic ocean cleaner to keep the Barrier Reef free from rubbish, an air quality app to help local communities impacted by coal operations, and a website which informs tourists about the importance of water consumption and provides information about the dangers posed by Australia’s unique wildlife.

The initiative culminated in students pitching their business ideas to a panel of STEM experts in June. Bowen Road Primary School in Hobart took top honours with their idea of autonomous drones that use thermal imaging cameras and sensors to detect the location and trajectory of bush fires to assist emergency services.

“We know the workforce is changing rapidly and it’s vital for us to be partnering with businesses like NBN Co to help bring practical real-world learning experiences to Australian students,” said Allegra Spender, Chief Executive Officer at ABCN.

“Connectivity allows us to do that, wherever the school is located. Creating STEM learning opportunities is particularly important in higher needs school communities where we know it can be more challenging for students to pursue these pathways. It’s been especially rewarding to see these students engaging passionately with STEM and entrepreneurship to solve real problems facing their communities.”

And, robotics expert and STEMpreneur ambassador Marita Cheng said, “As a young Australian leading a tech company, I’m keenly aware of the importance of STEM and entrepreneurial skills for students. With universal fast broadband becoming a reality, these core skillsets will only become more important in the workforce”.

“I’ve loved hearing that so many students share my passion for technology and innovation through the virtual mentoring sessions and final pitch submissions. I’m sure there are some budding CEOs, engineers and tech entrepreneurs among the very bright students I’ve worked with.”

The participating schools in the STEMpreneur initiative were:

  • Para Hills Primary School, Adelaide, SA
  • Islington Public School, Newcastle, NSW
  • Bowen Road Primary, Hobart, TAS
  • Larapinta Primary School, Alice Springs, NT
  • Parramatta State School, Cairns, QLD
  • Victoria Park State School, Mackay, QLD
  • Canadian Lead Primary School, Ballarat, VIC
  • Parkwood Primary School, Perth, WA

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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