Why every adult language, literacy, numeracy and digital skills stakeholder needs to read this report…

The Learning Country, Digital Transformation Skills Strategy (PDF download)

By Jo Medlin, ACAL President


The Learning Country: Digital Transformation Skills Strategy report was presented at the 23 February 2021 AISC meeting by Mr Mark McKenzie, member of the AISC’s Digital Transformation Expert Panel and Chair of the Transport and Logistics IRC.

What I love about this report:

  1. Industry is supporting lifelong learning. The expert panel, which represents industry, has presented information on why lifelong learning matters, with examples from across the globe highlighted.
  2. There’s discussion about and acknowledgment of barriers to learning, including fear, lack of access to information and advice, and limited time and resources.
  3. The call for learner support is commendable, with the focus on language, literacy, numeracy, digital literacy (LLND) and ‘learning to learn’ skills.
  4. The definition of digital skills on p68 was very helpful:
  • Digital literacy skills – which comprise the essential skills needed by everyone to enable citizenship, social inclusion and economic participation in a digital society
  • General digital skills – which are needed across the broad workforce to enable effective work in a digital economy
  • Advanced digital skills – which are the specific skills needed by ICT professionals, technicians and managers working with information technology systems, hardware and software.
  1. The report opens some useful discussion around how VET is meeting the need for general digital skills: the general digital skills needed across the whole workforce and the general capabilities needed to navigate the digital transformation of workplaces are less understood, less articulated and receive less attention in training product development and delivery (p70).
  2. There is useful discussion around the challenges associated with including foundation skills in training packages, particularly in pointing out the inconsistencies and the confusion that causes. Hopefully funding bodies take note of this important point: … because these skills are not explicit in training products, the funding of their development is not adequately covered by training subsidies and not captured clearly in assessment and reporting processes (p72).

What raises questions:

  1. The call for learner support with the focus on language, literacy, numeracy, digital literacy (LLND) and ‘learning to learn’ skills: Will this be guided by educators?
  2. I puzzled over this next statement for two reasons. Firstly, I wondered why the pictures in this section feature worried looking migrants (the rest of the document mainly features cheery optimistic-looking young people), and secondly, why are low cognitive skills linked to LLN and learning to learn? Although some people with an intellectual disability (if that is what low cognitive skills means?) may have LLN issues, low LLN are not associated necessarily with cognitive levels.

Research is showing very clearly however, that existing workers, particularly those who are older or who have low educational attainment levels or low cognitive skills (including language, literacy and numeracy and ‘learning to learn’ skills), are likely to encounter barriers to engagement in training.(p48)

  1. Some assumptions about VET are surprising, including that LLN support during and after training is built in.
  2. Who will be Developing good practice guidance on the use of the Australian Core Skills Framework, Core Skills for Work Framework, Digital Literacy Skills Framework and revised Australian Qualifications Framework in the design of training products?
  3. The ACSF Digital component is currently being trialled and is not yet in its final form, but is already being described as lacking … the breadth of digital skills and the range of skill levels… Work conducted by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research proposed the development of an ‘Australian Workforce Digital Skills Framework'[58]. At the moment, the framework is a high-level outline that could provide the basis for further development of performance detail along the lines of the ACSF or CSfW.

Where to from here?

It will be interesting to see what funding is allocated to these proposals.

I’d love to discuss this further but there’s an elephant to shoo out of the room. I live in a rural area and I haven’t got any phone reception today. Did I mention that infrastructure and unequal access to services don’t feature as barriers for learners or lifelong learning in this report?