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New study looks at tech disruption and skills gap in Australia's transport sector

A new study is set to commence in Australia, focusing on automation, AI and the cloud in relation to the skills gaps and training needs in the transport and mobility sector.

The iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre and RMIT University will undertake a study to map emerging skills gaps and training needs in the sector that has been highly disrupted by technology.

It will also include an examination of the impact of COVID-19 on sector skill needs.

The new study aims to give state and federal policymakers a clear roadmap on filling the skills gaps in the wide-ranging sector worth more than $123 billion to the nation’s GDP (7.3%), according to a statement.

It will scope the future of work for more than 273,000 Australian workers in the sector and assess what skills workers will need in the face of significant ongoing technology development and resulting from COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, it will look at the potential impact of trends such as automation and AI, which are greatly impacting the transport sector, where new jobs are likely to be found now and into the future as things evolve and what skills these jobs will require.

RMIT Associate Professors Victor Gekera and Darryn Snell are the lead academics. Both have extensive experience in probing occupational change and skills development questions across a range of industries, including agri-foods, digital, transport and logistics, cleantech, and the electricity generation industry.

Gekera says even before the pandemic struck the sector had long been associated with chronic skills and labour supply challenges, including difficulties with recruitment and retention of younger workers, an increasingly ageing workforce, and growing skills gaps.

He says that the recent acceleration in advanced technology adoption brings in a totally new dimension to the skill challenges.

Gekera says, “So far, however, there has been no comprehensive national study to provide concrete evidence of the emerging skills gaps and their implications for training needs and possible policy responses for the entire sector.”

Snell says, “There’s no question that COVID-19 has shaken up the sector and it’s unlikely we will return to a pre-pandemic normal in the transport sector.”

He says, “There has never been a greater impetus to get real local and global insights and understanding from industry stakeholders about what the future looks like for them - what technologies will drive change, what new skills will be needed, and what that will look like in terms of a policy response for gearing up training and education.”

iMOVE initiated the project after ongoing consultation with industry and government partners who highlighted concerns about technology-related gaps in particular. However the project will take a broad view of the nature of gaps across the whole industry.

iMOVE managing director Ian Christensen says, “This is a timely collaboration with RMIT. Understanding the fundamentals of skills and training needs for the transport and mobility sector in the face of ongoing technological transformation is critical.

"It also forms part of the solution for unlocking much needed growth for the national economic recovery post-COVID.”

A preliminary report of skills gaps is expected by the end of this year with a follow up report outlining how this relates to training needs and international examples expected mid-2021.