Embrace technology or pay the price, CSIRO chief warns
Apr 15, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Australia must retrain some six million workers in digital literacy over the next decade if it’s to compete globally, says CSIRO chair David Thodey.
Speaking at the Knowledge Nation 2016 summit, an event designed to drive implementation of the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, the former Telstra boss argued that transitioning towards a digital workforce was “an enormous national challenge”.
He said the country’s workforce needed to address a “lack of aspiration” if Australia was to escape a dependency on natural resources and create a workforce able to compete internationally post-2025.
“This is not just about start-ups and venture capitalists,” he said. “We have to take everybody on this.
“We have an enormous challenge ahead of us to improve our skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and also getting the right skills into the workforce.”
Mr Thodey said a recent survey had shown between 40 and 50 per cent of workforce would need training in digital skills over the decade - equating to six million people - and urged Australian companies to “understand the impact of digitisation on their workforce.”
Fellow speaker Matt Barrie of outsourcing firm Freelancer said those working in Silicon Valley were already shunning Australia as a possible workplace because they considered it a technological backwater.
The federal education minister agreed on the need for greater technological literacy, calling for more universities to follow Sydney University in requiring undergraduates to have at least mid-level maths qualifications for entry to STEM-based courses.
Senator Birmingham said he welcomed the university's decision to reintroduce a prerequisite for intermediate level year 12 maths for 62 degrees in science, engineering, commerce and information technology.
Only 13 per cent of commerce degrees, 14 per cent of science degrees and 59 per cent of engineering degrees currently require intermediate maths as a prerequisite.
His words were backed by Australian chief scientist Alan Finkel, who told the Financial Review: "You can't do engineering without a strong grasp of mathematics - algebra, calculus and matrix manipulation.
“I'd be delighted if other universities would consider the same kind of approach.”
From next year, students enrolled in mid and high-level Year 12 maths in Western Australia will receive a 10 per cent Australian Tertiary Admission Rank bonus.
The four WA universities responsible for constructing ATAR scores found that because rules did not scale for course difficulty, top students were choosing the easiest maths subject to get higher ATARs.
University of WA Deputy Vice-Chancellor Alec Cameron said universities acknowledged an "urgent need to put in place clear and reasonable incentives for students to choose the highest level of mathematics appropriate”.
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