STEM skills are still in high demand in the workforce according to a new report by the job seeking site SEEK. However, despite this there is still a global talent shortage. There has also been growth for the demand in ICT professionals reaching a top of 17% in Australia. As a consequence, the ICT sector remains a dominant part of the global economy.
Australians, like other people around the world, live in what is a ‘digital economy’ that is part of a ‘digital society’. All of which is based on the growth of “global markets accompanied by new organisations of labour, production and trade” (UNESCO, 2018).
Today, the technological trends that underpin the current digital skills requirements include (UNESCO, 2018):
- Network computing;
- Social and collaborative;
- Participatory (co)creation and making;
- Proprietary and open forms of technology provision;
- Databased and computational and;
- Remote and automated systems.
The skills that are required today include:
- Basic functional digital skills: accessing and engaging with digital technologies;
- Generic digital skills: using digital technologies in meaningful and beneficial ways and;
- High level skills: using digital technology in empowering and transformative ways.
What are the ramifications for teachers and education?
The continued emergence of new and developing ICTs in society means that digital competencies and digital skills in education will continually change. Teachers remain the catalyst to change and are an integral part of any new programmes or initiatives. Their competencies and digital capacities are a key enabler “for scaling up promising practices while ensuring sustainability and equality” (UNESCO, 2018).
It is for this reason why teacher competencies in ICT in the workforce underpins the issues of integration and thus highlights the continued need for teacher focused skills development programs.
What can educators do to make STEM more accessible to students?
To begin with, educational leaders can ensure that their teachers are surrounded by learning opportunities to improve their own ICT capability either via online professional development courses or colleagues that may be in the know already. Secondly, educational leaders also need to provide support and encouragement. For example, sending students off to a science fair can go a long way towards developing their STEM interests. Finally, they can invest in STEM education.
The career opportunities in STEM have been well highlighted with key successes by various individuals or organisations. With such high demand for digital skills educators need to ensure that their students are well-prepared for a digital economy and society. It is important to remember that “providing digital skills to all will require a massive investment from all stakeholders, and in particular governments and industry, to scale up effective programmes” (UNESCO, 2018, p.36)