Reducing the Skills Gap

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Courageous decisions - Skills

PwC's 21st CEO Survey

The fast pace of digital change is reshaping today’s workforce. The talent pool needs to be re-skilled to become fit for the future and education systems should to equip and empower the workforce with the right skills to succeed in the new working environment.

Collaboration is vital to this effort and governments, businesses and communities need to work together in pioneering new approaches to education and training, and in matching talent with opportunity in the fields that will matter in a technology-enabled job market.

The good news is that a majority of Australia’s CEOs recognise this ongoing reskilling responsibility (54%, versus 67% of CEOs globally) and agree that they have a responsibility to retrain employees whose tasks and jobs are automated by technology.

Even more heartening are the findings from PwC’s Workforce of the Future study that show three-quarters of respondents are willing to take the initiative in updating their own skills rather than relying on their employer.

Change is here and 75% of Australia’s CEOs (and 79% globally) are concerned about the availability of key skills. This marks a significant turnaround from last year when only 58% of Australia’s CEOs held the same concern (compared to 77% globally).

The rising concern regarding the availability of key skills comes as many organisations prepare for automation and look to improve the experiences of their customers via new technologies.  

PwC estimates there will be net job creation from technology, however they also believe it’s time to get practical about assisting all workers to adapt to the digital age.

The task of retraining talent goes beyond digital upskilling with 87% of Australia’s CEOs agreeing or strongly agreeing that they need to strengthen the soft skills of employees alongside their digital skills.

‘Human’ skills such as creativity, flexibility, agility, problem solving, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence are skills that can’t be automated and therefore there is much value to gain from harnessing these skills in employees.

Indeed, lifelong learning is fast becoming an employee’s most valuable asset.

Reskilling a nation

The future of work is here and leaders need to respond rapidly in order to attract and develop the right talent.

Organisations are investing in education to ensure appropriate skills are available to the future workforce. Businesses are creating senior leadership roles as a strategy to make their workforce future fit and they are partnering with other organisations to accommodate the needs of the future workforce.

The ideal workforce will vary from one organisation to another but achieving the right mix of humans and machines will mean the difference between success and failure. And this can only be done by employing a forward-thinking approach to the sorts of skills required, as well as the ways to attract the right talent.

For many the gap between a current workforce and a future-fit workforce is vast. But it’s encouraging to see that there is an increasing awareness of how long-established ways of working are holding organisations back or, at the very least, are slowing them down from bridging that gap.

Today’s workplaces are becoming more dynamic; demands from the talent pool for modern working environments are being heard; and employers are seeing the financial benefits and productivity gains from their people.

Organisations must unlock soft skills within their workforce, such as creativity, and be proactive about workforce health and wellbeing. Benefits can also be realised through less siloed, less rigid and less formal organisational structures.

Future-focused organisations are using a range of strategies and tactics to not only attract but also develop digital talent. This includes rolling out digital tools and creating collaborative physical environments; implementing new, flexible ways of working to empower employees to move away from ‘desk time’ to ‘output’; and changing dress codes to signal autonomy, trust and respect.

Closing the gap between the current and future-fit workforce is about a journey. Rather than relying on the old model of forced redundancy of roles, smart leaders are considering the optimal balance of reskilling/repurposing and upskilling versus bringing in people with new and different skills and knowledge.

Organisations are looking at how to reskill and upskill their workforce, either through internal professional development or through external qualifications and training.

There is a movement towards recruiting workforces through more diverse routes: internships, apprenticeships, learning and development pathways, developing internal academies and working much more closely with universities and education institutions.


Leaders of future-fit organisations need to:

  1. Assess external disruption: decide which mega trends, industry changes and new and emerging technologies will shape tomorrow
  2. Align business strategy: ensuring that automation and digitisation opportunities support the business strategy and help shape a view on where the business needs to go and what capabilities are required to deliver that strategy without swamping the strategy
  3. Design a future fit workforce and workspace: identify which task are going to be impacted by automation or other tech, the implications of that for jobs and and then assess how to evolve the culture of the organisation to respond  
  4. Identify and close the skill gaps: find the balance between reskilling, upskilling and repurposing versus bringing in new skills, technology and knowledge as roles change and the demands on workers shift
  5. Use data and analytics: drive better decision making and leverage new and emerging technologies.
  6. Implement: embed new structures, technologies, environments, skills, ways of working, management and governance to deliver the strategy and achieve the vision and purpose of the organisation


Contact us

Philip Le Feuvre

Director, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 3661

Scott Gillespie

National Thought Leadership Leader, PwC Australia

Tel: +61 2 8266 3229

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