Govt pledges $5m for digital skills passport
3 June 2022
A $5 million trial of a digital skills passport will be launched to help match workers with tech jobs as part of a Coalition election pitch.
Employment Minister Stuart Robert announced the skills passport trial on Tuesday morning, in which the government has partnered with the Australian Technology Network of Universities to create a single digital record of university and VET qualifications.
The $5 million pilot covers tech skills such as cybersecurity and coding, and will then be expanded more widely.
The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) comprises six institutions: Deakin University, RMIT University, the University of Newcastle, the University of South Australia and the University of Technology Sydney.
The digital passport would help to address the growing skills gap in Australia, Mr Robert said.
“Where there are skills gaps to fill, we want Australians to have the first crack at getting that opportunity and our skills passport approach will enable rapid upskilling and reskilling,” Mr Robert said.
“These investments will mean more skilled workers, lower unemployment, and a stronger future not just for apprentices and trainees, but for Australia.”
The ATN will partner with vocational education providers and the tech industry to co-design the passport and recognise skills, chair Professor Iain Martin said.
“This initiative is an answer to ATN’s calls for the government to partner with universities and industry to deliver solutions to fill urgent and persistent skills requirements, flexibly meet emerging needs and create a vision to address Australia’s challenges and opportunities,” Professor Martin said.
“A three-way partnership between universities, industry and the government is crucial to delivering better outcomes for industry, workers and the economy.”
A spokesperson for Labor said the government is “playing catch-up footy” on skills and tech jobs.
“For too long the government has neglected the skills sector and key opportunities in upskilling Australians in critical skills areas like cyber and tech,” the Labor spokesperson told InnovationAus.com.
“An Albanese Labor government will set a goal of 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030, with our fee-free TAFE and 20,000 university places at the heart of this plan. We know how important these critical skills are, and the opportunities of well-paid, secure jobs which come from them.”
The Northern Territory funded a similar pilot last year, with the territory’s skills passport to be developed by the Charles Darwin University.
Western Australian tech company MyPass also offers a digital skills passport, while the Queensland Trucking Association recently launched a similar initiative for the sector.
The Tech Council of Australia has welcomed the government’s announcement, with its chief executive Kate Pounder saying it “combines the best elements of higher education, vocational education and training and professional experience”.
“This will ultimately help more Australians get into tech jobs and allow employees to upskill throughout their career,” Ms Pounder told InnovationAus.com.
“The rapid pace of change within the tech sector means that shorter programs targeted toward industry needs will be critical in enabling individuals to reskill and upskill throughout their career, and also offer exciting opportunities to attract new sources of talent and experience to the tech industry.”
The Tech Council has a goal of creating 340,000 new tech jobs by 2030. This pledge was recently backed by the Opposition during the election campaign.
“To achieve this we need to provide clear pathways and opportunities for individuals to build on their existing skills with the goal of moving them into tech sector jobs,” Ms Pounder said.