This page describes projects carried out as part of a team of researchers employed at the CSIRO.
How can the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector best support Australia’s future workforce in the context of evolving skill needs and forthcoming digital disruption?
The Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector provides Australians with the skills they need to participate in the labour market and Australia’s industries with the workers they need to drive the national economy. However, as digital technology becomes increasingly ubiquitous, business models and employment models are being disrupted and machines are developing the capability to perform ever more complex tasks. We are already beginning to see the impact of such changes on the roles and tasks required of workers. As advances in digital technology continue to accelerate, we can expect these changes to become more pervasive and rapid, so that workers will need to learn and re-skill in an ongoing manner, either to keep up with new role requirements or re-skill for new jobs (as old jobs are automated).
The readiness and agility of the VET sector will be critical in determining how well Australian workers transition to participate in a more digital economy and in turn, how well the nation’s economy will grow through the opportunities presented by technological change. In a joint project, undertaken by CSIRO and TAFE Queensland we investigated how the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector can best support Australia’s future workforce in the context of evolving skill needs and forthcoming digital disruption. I was responsible for leading the stakeholder engagement process as well as contributing to the write-up of the report in collaboration with CSIRO colleagues Dr Andrew Reeson, Dr Todd Sanderson, DrAlexandra Bratanova and Dr Stefan Hajkowicz.
Our research provides insight into the types of skills and ways of working that are likely to be required in the future. We approached this task from two angles. First, we analysde labour market trends and national employment data to identify how the demand for skills is changing with increased uptake of technology. Second, we drew upon the research literature and interviews with key stakeholders (representatives from employers, government, VET providers, technology providers, students and research experts) to consider how greater efficiency, agility and transparency could be achieved through innovative application of digital technology within the VET sector.
This work has been used by the National Council for Vocational Research (NCVER) the Federal Government standing committee on Employment, Education and Training and to inform strategic planning across multiple VET providers.
Key findings from the report are described in this video-recording produced by Victoria Polytechnic, I outline how demand for skills is changing over time across the Australian workforce. I also talk about the need to adopt new models for the delivery of vocational education and training based on literature reviews and stakeholder input.
A copy of the full report is available at: http://tafeqld.edu.au/about-us/research-papers/#.WMIL3Pl96Uk
Developments in digital technology have the potential to enhance or diminish our ability to participate in society and the economy.
I led this project within the CSIRO's Data61 Decision sciences program. Our goal was to draw attention to the potential for ongoing developments in digital technology to enhance (or diminish) our ability to participate in society and the economy. Engaging with high-level experts from across Australian society and the economy we captured the range of ways in which digital technology can affect lifelong participation, mitigating the impact of physical, cognitive, geographic and social barriers to participation.
Word cloud generated from the interview transcripts
Some of the experts we spoke with felt that the impacts of digital technology were potentially so profound that they could change our preconceptions about ageing, work and participation.
…the nature of work and my participation in society will change. We’ve got an enormous re-education to go through to start to stop this archaic view of “work, retirement and then ‘be put out to pasture’”… I think of the incredible opportunity that we have to have our senior people more involved in life. I see the potential that technology can enable them to have a more active longer productive life than ever before... 
On the other hand, since access to digital technology is mediated by these same factors, our increased reliance on digital technology could actually serve to reinforce existing inequalities.
…rather than solving the troubles of the world we’re actually going to create a bigger divide between the haves and have nots... 
By addressing multiple barriers to participation, digital technology opens up an array of opportunities that can be adapted to the diverse values and needs of people in later life. On the other hand, the barriers to accessing and using digital technology could ultimately result in some individuals and groups being further excluded from opportunities to participate. The potential of digital technology is therefore emergent rather than fixed. To realise its full potential, older Australians need the capability, the tools and the vision to apply digital technology to meet our individual and collective needs and goals.
The power of people and technology is realised when humans use technology to connect with each other, to solve problems, and to achieve that which is of value to them. This represents the highest form of digital literacy and is where we need to be aiming collectively. Both for their own sakes and for society more generally, older Australians need to be emboldened to find their own answers to the question posed by one of our research participants:
…the tools themselves aren’t the solution, it’s the relationship between what the tools are and a deep understanding of how to actually provide the social good… taking a step back and thinking… What do we care about, what are our values, what do we seek to accomplish… what is science telling us for having a really good life and then how can technology facilitate that? 
A copy of the full report is available at: https://research.csiro.au/lifelong/lifelong-participation/
Improving social media monitoring and analysis tools for emergency management
Open source data from social media platforms is becoming a critical source of intelligence to inform situational awareness in the emergency management domain. However, the use of social media data in emergency management organisations is not yet widespread. In this project we carried out interviews with social media subject matter experts from Australian emergency management organisations towards:
- Understanding how social media monitoring and analysis tools are used to meet the information needs of emergency services organisations and
- Capturing insight as to how such tools could be improved to inform the ongoing development of CSIRO’s Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA) tool. The ESA tool provides crowd sourced information in near-realtime from Twitter about all-hazard types for emergency managers. ESA collects Tweets from Australia and New Zealand and processes them to: identify unexpected incidents, monitor ongoing emergency events and provide access to an archive to explore past events (for more information see https://esa.csiro.au/ausnz/about-public.html) .
The stakeholder engagement research revealed that participants valued the following characteristics when analysing social media data for emergency management:
- saving time
- triangulation of multiple sources of information
- “More eyes on the ground”
- geographic and temporal contex
- information about individuals
- collaborative tools and
- cost minimisation.
We spoke to participants about how the current social media monitoring and analysis tools could be improved. The key features they sought were:
1. Automated evaluation of information sources
2. The ability to follow social media content from specific individuals
3. Geographic representation of search results
4. Access to real-time feeds across multiple platforms, and
5. Flexibility to retrospectively modify searches.
The findings from the stakeholder engagement process was used by CSIRO researchers to refine and improve the ESA tool. Specifically they revised the user interfaces, introduced a consistent layout for the common components, simplified the mechanism to define search queries and improved some of the back end system features to make the user interfaces more responsive.
The modified tool has since been integrated into a commercial software package that is now widely used by Australian emergency services organizations.