RMIT: University-industry collaborations essential to fill digital transformation skills shortages

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Following this week’s Jobs and Skills Summit, leaders from RMIT’s School of Computing Technologies discuss how to address the urgent need for digital professionals to fill growing tech workforce shortages in Australia.

According to the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, companies across industries have digitised their daily operations and customer offerings as part of the well-established digital transformation. The university added that new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cloud Computing are already assisting some businesses in analysing crucial data and gaining insightful knowledge about what lies ahead.

However, RMIT said the current digital workforce in Australia lacks experts with the necessary work-ready skills to carry out this crucial digital transformation and implement new technologies in a scalable and secure manner across many organisations and industries.

According to the recent PwC survey, 60 per cent of business leaders cited digital transformation as their organisation’s top growth driver; their most significant risk for meeting growth objectives was not being able to “find enough people” in the smaller workforce.

RMIT’s Executive Dean School of Computing Technologies Karin Verspoor said Australia must almost double its tech workforce before 2030 to drive economic growth and ensure the nation remains at the leading edge.

“It is estimated an additional 650,000 tech workers will be needed in Australia alone by the end of the decade, and this demand will continue to rapidly grow,” she stated.

She highlighted the need to focus on attracting school leavers to study IT/Computing and widen out the pool of people that see technology as an attractive and fulfilling career option.

“This includes reskilling more women to join the tech workforce and increasing the diversity of people that we welcome into the sector and that we train in our TAFEs and universities,” she added.

In August, RMIT and Apple entered into an expanded partnership to bring coding education to even more students across the country, preparing students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences for careers in the app economy.

Another effort taken by RMIT’s School of Computing Technologies in response to the urgent and growing demand for tech graduates who are prepared for the workplace is by working with businesses from various sectors and enlisting seasoned professionals from the industry to create real-world learning experiences. 

Senior Industry Fellow in Data Science Tomas Turek joined RMIT this year from the financial services industry. He oversaw significant digital transformation initiatives and helped develop AI-powered digital products for numerous multinational corporations.

Turek is also the creator of Nablas AI, a company helping businesses implement AI and build scalable, sustainable economies. 

According to him, digital transformation skills must be taught by real practitioners who are successfully applying new technologies across industries.

“Up-skilling the workforce is a difficult task for emerging technologies with strong hype cycles like deep learning and edge computing. This gives a false impression to the public that everyone is an expert, while only few practitioners have hands-on experience in building production-grade software with such technologies,” he said.

Meanwhile, Associate Dean of Data Science Professor Lawrence Cavedon stated that bringing experienced industry experts to the University is beneficial as it enhances university-industry capabilities and is an “uplifting experience” for students.

“RMIT is committed to supporting digital transformation of the industry and developing future-focused technology experiences. We saw a need to increase the capabilities of our Data Science students and offer them real-world skill-building experiences during their studies,” he added.

The degree programs at RMIT School of Computing Technologies include opportunities for students to work in the industry. The Work Integrated Learning (WIL) effort is being led by business professionals who mentor students and offer feedback on the work-ready curriculum.

In their endeavour to provide over 400 new students with opportunities for software developers, cloud engineers, and cyber specialists through a new Melbourne Tech Hub, RMIT has also teamed up with Commonwealth Bank.

The partnership will expand the chances for students to collaborate with businesses on cutting-edge technology during their studies, such as Web 3.0 and Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT).

To increase opportunities for WIL and paid internships for all students, an industry year will be added to all undergraduate degrees starting in the following academic year. Students can also transform their digital products into transformative businesses within a university start-up program. For the benefit of students, alumni, staff, and industry partners, the RMIT Activator offers entrepreneurial experiences within the University.

In September 2022, RMIT Activator will also debut the RMIT Digital Transformation (DX) Hub. To help provide access to technology that will enable digitally transforming educational programs as well as the operations of business and government organisations with which Activator partners, DX Hub will bring together RMIT’s world-class resources and industry partners.

Turek thinks that RMIT’s dedication to cooperative university-industry partnerships will “shape the future of work” and “grow workforce capabilities.”

“This will prepare the future generations of graduates, making them work-ready, helping them secure their future careers while at the same time helping to fill the demand for work-ready tech professionals,” he said.


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