Demand for digital skills in the rail sector is set to grow 54 percent over the next five years, creating space for an additional 70,000 workers. But as Patrick Kidd and Alison Wall of the Future Skills Organisation point out, it is not only new staff that will need technical acumen.

With drones, AI and rail safety systems reshaping the sector, demand for digital skills is set to grow enormously in all types of role and in each pocket of the industry, they tell Informa ahead of the Connect Rail Conference.

“Our research shows that every worker now has to use digital skills in some form or other; and that these digital skills themselves are continuously changing as technology moves on at speed. To prosper we all now need to become lifelong learners to keep pace with the opportunities in the workplace,” said Mr Kidd.

Ms Wall says demand growth for digital skills is now also seen in each tier of the business hierarchy.

“We often think that digital upskilling relates to entry level positions, when in fact these are skills required at all levels; and may even be important for leaders, who need to understand their potential,” she said.

In rail, digital skills will be particularly beneficial, with the sector experiencing an unparalleled level of technological disruption, Mr Kidd said.

“Rail workers who digitally upskill will be able to do their jobs more efficiently and with greater accuracy, both of which will enhance the sector’s productivity. There will also be important safety benefits with improved cyber security awareness and digital confidence when using safety critical systems.”

While the benefits of digital upskilling are clear, Mr Kidd says there are a range of challenges in meeting Australia’s digital skill requirements.

“Firstly, we need to build the pipeline of talent for these careers. Many perceive the pathways into tech as complicated or inaccessible when, in reality, they offer amazing jobs that pay well, for people from the most diverse backgrounds.

“Secondly, we need to ensure the skilling sector is providing the right training that meets the needs of employers.”

To combat these challenges, Mr Kidd, Ms Wall and team at the Future Skills Organisation are honing in on three focus areas.

“We are making sure education providers have a much closer linkage with industry; creating simple and easy to understand training pathways; and working on our export potential,” Ms Wall said.

To ensure success, the organisation is working with all levels of government to undertake digital campaigns and ensure the education sector is adequately resourced.

“We need digital skills programmes that can operate at scale and this starts with having a clear understanding of what digital skills are needed in the workplace. Then out in place the training programmes which help people to acquire and maintain those skills,” Mr Kidd said.

Alison Wall, Chief of Staff at the Future Skills Organisation is due to present at the Connect Rail Conference, where she will talk more about her research and strategy.

Further insights will be heard from the likes of Josh Bull MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Level Crossing Removals, Victoria; Jacqui Walters, National Rail Manufacturing Advocate, Rail Industry Innovation Council; and Sandra McKay
Executive Leading Rail Reform, National Transport Commission.

This year’s event will be held 5-6 September in Melbourne.

Learn more and register here.