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Are digital skills the key to job security in 2022?

By Adele Cochrane

The digital revolution is here, and it doesn’t care if you have a technical job or not — it’s coming to shake up the way you work. Maybe you’ve already noticed the changes:
  • Demand for data and coding skills in non-tech sectors, like healthcare
  • Managers are expected to run digital collaboration sessions
  • New cybersecurity protocols
  • Marketers need to be across social media
Industry 4.0 is poised to transform many jobs through automation. COVID-19 has ramped up our shift to digital ways of working. The upshot? Digital skills are no longer optional. Those without will be stranded on the other side of the ‘digital divide’ — left without the skills they need to keep up.

In 2022, the question is no longer “will it affect your job?”. It’s, “How will you adapt?”

Here’s how two people adapted to changing industries and boosted employability.

Case study: Evie’s fast track from shelf-stacking to social media marketing

Evie Griffin worked her part-time supermarket job during the pandemic, but with almost full-time hours. “I feel like I lived there,” she laughs. But she knew she wanted to do something different.

“I always wanted to do something creative, like filmmaking or that sort of thing. But I also love the advertising side.”

“I didn't want to do basic marketing because I'm not a business person, and I can't do sales. All that sort of stuff — it's not me. I got to bypass all that stuff and focus on what I wanted to do: social media — the visual and the creative side.”

So she took on an online Diploma of Social Media Marketing with Upskilled. “The course was self-paced, so I did it whenever I felt like it. I just would come home after work and sit and do it.” Though the average course duration was one year, she completed it within seven months and landed a sales and marketing associate position two months later.

“Now I’m doing what I want to do,” she says.

Finding work, fast-tracked

social media concept

Evie’s pathway from study to a new career was surprisingly short, considering she wasn’t actively looking for a new job. “I was just looking around, and an opportunity popped up in October. And then I had a job in December — I got that job. It all happened so fast.”

Evie was reluctant to spend a long time studying at university. “What if you commit to a four-year degree and then get halfway and realise, "Oh my God, I don't even like this?"

Instead, she focused on gaining skills that would get her job-ready, which she says paid off in her new role. “I use what I learned in the course every day,” she says.

 “Before, I thought, ‘maybe this is something that you can pick up — like, you don't necessarily have to study for it’. But I'm so glad I did. Because it made the transition of going into the job so much easier.”

Marketing is notorious for jargon and acronyms, which are overwhelming for somebody new to the industry. But after studying, Evie says, “I know the lingo.”

Evie considers herself more at home with visual communication, so she appreciated the practical, visual focus of the course. “All the assignments were all presentations but visual, so it was all about more images and less wording. And I was like, ‘Oh, this is where I'm supposed to be.’”

For Evie, online study is the best of both worlds

Evie chose online study - even though she lives close to Sydney - because it was flexible and fit around her schedule. “I wanted to keep working as much as I could and study. So this is sort of the best of both worlds.”

“Being online, you can feel like you're on your own — but it didn't feel like that.” With easy-to-digest course content and one-on-one access to her tutor, she says, “I felt fully supported.

“Rather than just being like another student, another name and then us reaching out to another teacher — it was nice having that one person to go to.”

Evie is excited about her prospects and glad she chose digital skills as her path into a creative career. “It's good to have gotten in early because everyone's starting to discover it now.”

Case study: Avishkar’s mission to improve community pharmacy with technology

During COVID, pharmacist Avishkar Lal witnessed dramatic disruption in his workplace. With it, he spotted an opportunity to create something truly helpful. “So many updates were happening in the pharmacy field,” he says.

Lockdowns pushed traditional scripts out into the cold and ushered in a new age of electronic prescriptions. Pharmacists, doctors and customers adopted the new programs out of necessity.

But, as often happens when new tech meets old processes, they hit stumbling blocks. Patient privacy issues were front and centre, with many understandably reluctant to grant access to their prescription records.

Access was another sticking point. Vulnerable groups in the community face barriers to accessing apps and websites, particularly older people unfamiliar with technology.

Necessity also mothered software that enabled pharmacists to remotely complete dispensing tasks (like checking drug interactions and doses) so more pharmacists could work from home.

“It's an interesting concept, but it doesn't replace actual pharmacies because you still need a pharmacist in the store.”

Pharmacy staff can also struggle with troubleshooting new technologies in their fast-paced workplaces.

“When things go wrong, you just stand there, and what do you do? You have to look for IT for help.”

But customers are often pressed for time, and the pressure can mount while waiting for a response from IT support. “You just end up saying, ‘Oh, can I fix this myself,’ and try to play around,” he says.

An app built by pharmacists for pharmacists

After noticing how technology solves (and also creates) community pharmacy problems, Avishkar started to get his own ideas. How could technology help alleviate real frustrations and bottlenecks in his industry?

“I'm very pro-technology, obviously. But even though I'm happy to bring technology into pharmacy, my colleagues are resistant. They don't know how these things work. It's that mentality that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".  

He knew his colleagues' frustrations and attitudes first-hand. How might he create a technology that would serve his colleagues rather than make their jobs more challenging or complicated?

“Pharmacy is such a busy environment. There is no time to train staff up to scratch on dealing with customers, the required product knowledge, and the necessary procedures.”  Avishkar also knew that while educational resources were available online, staff were unlikely to sit down and study them after work. So he came up with a better idea.

“The idea was to develop a pharmacy training app that all the pharmacy staff, assistants, and the new interns could refer to.”

Instead of asking senior staff questions about products and protocols, junior staff could use the app and increase their knowledge when it suited them — like on the train or during lunch break.

He also knew that his perspective made him the right person to build it.

“When I'd talk to my friends about it, they say, ‘Oh, you could just give it to an IT guy to do it’. But the problem with that one is that, yes, the IT guy would know how to develop an app, but they wouldn't know the pharmacy field.”

Building coding skills

programmer working

Avishkar had the idea. Now he needed the skills to pull it off. The next step was to take on a course, and he chose a Certificate IV in Programming with Upskilled.

This online course was practical and covered a range of IT skills. He particularly gelled with databases, which satisfied his natural tendency to organise and sort information. “I seem to be one of those people who is very organised. So that's pretty much what database software entails, right?”

“And the other part that I liked was the final assignment when you had to make an app,” Avishkar reflects. “I made one called morning yoga, so it was just a set of yoga poses that you made in an app. And you tried to present it. It was quite fun.”

Bringing tech skills into the pharmacy

Avishkar now finds he’s more confident using the changing technologies at work and helping others adopt new technologies in the pharmacy.

“I tend to appreciate now how things work in the digital world. So now, whenever I look at a computer problem — or even something simple like playing video games — I suddenly realise how much time and effort went into creating that particular game or software and the amount of code required. “

This new understanding has also enabled him to troubleshoot with less frustration. “It's not 'just a piece of junk’ like people say when dealing with computers, and they don't work. You understand that this is why it's not working, and then you can fix things better.”

He hopes to start working on his pharmacy training app soon after finding the right partner for the project.

“The bottom line is that now I've got some computer background skills. And I'm very eager to use them. So hopefully, in the future, I can develop an app in relation to pharmacy.

And I think it's going to help a lot of people. Imagine that you've got something to help teach you all the ups and downs of pharmacy.”

What are the best digital transferable skills to focus on?

Whether you’re angling for a digital career or adapting to the digital changes in your field, building a solid digital skill set is essential.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, that’s completely understandable. But don’t stress — focus on adding or upgrading these transferable skills first, and your foundation will be rock-solid for building more niche advanced skills.
  • Digital literacy - The foundational skill for any job in the future. To be digitally literate is to be comfortable using technology to communicate, access information, and keep your life in order. This involves thinking critically to sort through and evaluate the mass of information available to you online.
  • Problem-solving - Finding ways to efficiently and effectively achieve goals using technology. Example: locating authoritative sources on a topic so that you can accurately answer a question at work and back it up with research.
  • Collaboration - Working with others, communicating effectively and getting things done using online tools and platforms. Example: Getting a joint project done using Google Drive to share files and Slack to chat with colleagues.
  • Adaptability - Spot rapid changes in your work environment, then respond by adapting your technologies, processes and management. Example: Changing to an online payment system to provide better order turnaround times for customers.
  • Creativity - Finding new ways to use digital tools and technologies to explore new ideas, make new connections, and innovate.

Are you looking to grow your career in a fresh new direction? Or expand your skill set and become more effective in your current career track? Wherever you’re aiming for, you’ll need digital skills to get there.

But upgrading your skills doesn’t have to mean taking a career pause. A significant upside to this change is that self-paced online learning is better than ever, enabling you to level up your skills alongside your day-to-day work.

Editor's note: This article was contributed and written by They are Australia's largest education marketplace, assisting education providers in maximising their student enrolments by offering a range of services that help attract high-quality student enquiries.
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