Upskill or perish

Chisholm Institute of TAFE
By Annaleis Bijdeveldt, Grant Collis and Joe D’Amico – Chisholm TAFE
Tuesday, 09 October, 2018


Upskill or perish

Technological advancements, Internet of Things and automation are challenging and changing the vocational education and workforce training models.

As new technologies continue to roll out across Australia, information and communications technology (ICT) technicians are increasingly looking for optic fibre endorsements to remain employable, find new opportunities or grow their existing business. The rollout of the national broadband network (nbn) is expected to grow the demand for ICT at 2.2% a year, according to The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) data from May 2018.

IoT and communications technologies are just a taste of things to come. Power and storage requirements need to improve dramatically to make the IoT more feasible. Network systems will need to cope with larger volumes of devices and data streaming at the same time, for instance, sporting stadiums which are generally populated for a short time during an event such as the football. Likewise, vocational education and training (VET) and university-level education will need to grow/evolve and also cover technical as well as soft skills.

Benefits of IoT to businesses and the industry include: efficient resource utilisation; reduced human efforts; lower costs and improved productivity; real-time marketing; decision analytics; better customer experiences; high-quality data.

With the changing nature of work and changing employment models (such as Air Tasker), upskilling has become even more important. The biggest challenge is the rapid pace at which technology is evolving. Short courses and online courses offer great quick and easy ways to stay professionally current within the trade with additional endorsements available.

VET provides skills required for careers in many of the fastest-growing occupations. ‘Electricians’ is one of the top 10 VET occupations with 11,000 extra jobs by 2022 (The National Centre for Vocational Education Research 2018). Telecommunications trades workers installing, maintaining and repairing data transmission equipment, aerial lines, conduits, cables, radio antennae and telecommunications equipment and appliances are said to have skills “in demand”, according to www.joboutlook.gov.au.

Transferable skillsets have been recognised between telecommunication technicians and electricians. Training organisations such as Chisholm Institute of TAFE are adapting courses to suit changing market requirements. The institute’s Electrical Department is offering its electrical apprentices the opportunity to undertake a Certificate III in Telecommunications Technology, offering apprentices the opportunity to gain dual qualifications at the same time as a Certificate III in Electrotechnology Electrician, saving the apprentice time and money.

Those undertaking a telecommunications traineeship or electrical apprenticeship undertaking the dual qualification will learn a range of skills in the selection, installation and configuration of equipment in convergence technologies that integrate radio, optical and internet protocol (IP) based applications. Students are taught to assess installation requirements, planning and performing installations, testing installed equipment and fault finding. On completion of the Certificate III in Telecommunications Technology, graduates can obtain the required ACMA Open Cablers License as well as specialised cabling endorsements for optical fibre, and structured and coaxial cabling. A dual qualification provides graduates with more employment opportunities and helps business owners enhance their service offering.

Although different from an education and training perspective, a relationship exists between IoT, cloud computing and big data. Chisholm’s Information Technology and Communications area has integrated elements of these technologies into courses like the Certificate IV in Information Technology, Diploma of Information Networking Technology and Diploma of Software Development, Certificate IV in Cyber Security and Advanced Diploma of Cyber Security to ensure students develop employability skills. The institute has been developing telecommunications labs at the Berwick, Dandenong and Frankston campuses to service the training needs of the industry.

The growth of IoT, home automation and connected devices will continue to create opportunities in the telecommunications and cabling industry and increase the need for skilled tradespeople. As our home and environment becomes smarter and more personalised, there will be opportunities for those with telecommunications and related qualifications to install systems and technologies for individuals as well as businesses.

The growing cost of electricity and the need to improve energy efficiency will also create opportunities. For example, electricians could recommend and install energy-efficient products — eg, LED lighting, solar products etc — to their residential, commercial or industrial customers in order to help them reduce electricity usage, achieve efficiency and cut costs.

RFID and IoT-related qualifications are not just embedded into the institute’s electrical and telecommunications programs but also in the information technology programs. The institute’s ability to implement these changes in training comes largely from the skilled industry teachers and industry feedback. The need for digitally savvy tradespeople will become more evident and IT qualifications will have more crossover with traditional trades.

A focus for the federal government and the VET sector has been to introduce Skills First (a set of reforms for the training and TAFE sector) courses that align delivery and funding with strong employment outcomes. Courses involving the teaching of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills are of specific priority.

When operating in an industry undergoing such constant and rapid change with technology, skills can’t be left to stagnate. TAFE plays a big role in connecting industry with the workforce of tomorrow. There are so many ways to keep your skills up to date with informal training, mentoring, short courses, conferences, online study, night classes and the flexible delivery of advanced formal qualifications at a Certificate IV, Diploma or Degree level.

To meet the growing demand for professionals with technological/IoT skills, Chisholm’s Frankston campus is set to launch an exciting new $75.9 million redevelopment in 2019. This will make Chisholm one of the most advanced and innovative institutes in south-east Melbourne, allowing the institute to forge even stronger links with businesses and industry.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/HighwayStarz

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