If we were asked to picture a worker who uses digital technology, our first thought would most likely be someone working in an IT department of a large corporation, or a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. However, the truth is that these types of professionals represent a very small portion of the working population that uses digital technology every day.
You yourself may not consider yourself as a digital worker, but research published by the World Economic Forum shows that almost two in three Australian workers currently apply digital skills in their work, and in the next five years that number is set to reach 87%.
This is why it’s important for teachers and careers advisors to emphasise the importance of gaining digital skills in the workplace, regardless of which industry or role they are interested in pursuing. This involves developing students’ skill sets beyond digital literacy, towards a skill level known as digital fluency.
Digital literacy is understood as “the foundational knowledge, skills and attitudes required to access, create, use and evaluate digital information effectively” (DSO, 2021). This does not simply mean the ability to use technology, but to be able to apply critical thinking to one’s use of the technology.
That is to say that a digitally literate person is able to understand concepts such as one’s digital footprint, identify how skills in one area may apply to another, and self-curate their information access (Source: Decoding Digital Literacy). The ability to reflect on one’s own use of digital technology should be considered the foundational skill that will then allow a student to extend themselves further to acquire digital fluency.
Digital fluency is the ability to not just interact with individual digital technologies, but to have a broader understanding of the digital tools at hand to deliver specific outcomes. In a professional context, these are likely to be the skills requested by employers for specific roles.
For example, a personal assistant may be tasked with managing the schedule and information flow to an executive. The personal assistant will need digital fluency to be able to work between multiple digital platforms to complete tasks such as scheduling meetings, forwarding emails, or booking accommodation. This is in contrast to digital professionals who have expertise in specific digital technologies gained through structured training or accreditation pathways.
The proportion of careers that require digital fluency is rapidly increasing – which is why it is vital for career role models such as parents, teachers and careers advisors to encourage the acquisition of digital skills to develop young people’s digital literacy and fluency. To assist with this, the DSO has developed a suite of free digital products to help students, professionals and career advisors develop their digital skills, known as the Digital Toolbox.
Additionally, Year13 has collaborated with the Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) to create Digiskills, an e-learning module designed to present the importance of digital skills acquisition to students in a light-hearted, interactive format.
For more information on tech career pathways check out this video.