Part 2: Matching skills and jobs post-COVID-19

Part 2: Matching skills and jobs post-COVID-19 Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:33

This section contains the following subjects:

2.1: Understanding skills needs critical for economic recovery

  • Gradual recovery will require diverse support

2.2: Matching skills and jobs — an introduction to JEDI

  • Building skills profiles with the Australian Skills Classification

2.3: Core competencies — importance of a set of base transferable skills

  • What is a core competency?
  • The purpose of identifying core competencies
  • Analysis in action: core competencies heat map

2.4: Specialised tasks

  • What is a specialised task?
  • The purpose of identifying specialised tasks
  • Transferability of specialised tasks

2.5: Digital literacy and technology tools

  • What is a technology tool?
  • Example: How JEDI can assist hospitality workers

2.1: Understanding skills needs critical for economic recovery

2.1: Understanding skills needs critical for economic recovery Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:36

The labour market has experienced major disruption and while signs of recovery are emerging, uncertainty remains around when demand will pick up and what jobs will be most in demand.

Matching workers to jobs in this uncertain and evolving environment will require the ability to quickly identify skills needs and retrain people for jobs that are in demand.

More than ever, the focus on skilling and re-skilling displaced workers will be essential to the recovery of the jobs market and our economy.

Improved efforts on job matching and connecting job seekers with job opportunities through an increased focus on skills transferability and mid-career change will help get people back into jobs.

Identifying training options that can link to a variety of jobs provides a degree of insurance against uncertainty during such periods of rapid labour market change. New machine learning techniques, such as those used by the Jobs and Education Data Infrastructure project (JEDI, see 2.2) make this sort of analysis possible. These techniques can also identify additional training needed to open up new employment options for people seeking new jobs, and to identify pathways to new employment opportunities that take advantage of a job seeker’s existing skills.

Gradual recovery will require diverse support

Australia’s economy and jobs market will take time to rebound from the impacts of COVID-19 and will require varied support throughout the stages of economic recovery.

Businesses in some industries most severely affected by the restrictions, such as retail and hospitality, are gradually reopening and transitioning to new ways of working. However, many businesses in the arts and recreation are still on hold, while tourism and travel are likely to be significantly affected for some time yet. There is also evidence that the impacts are yet to flow through to some businesses. For example, construction (housing in particular) and manufacturing businesses are reporting fewer orders and projects in the pipeline9. That said, governments introducing or bringing forward infrastructure projects, and the new HomeBuilder program supporting jobs in the residential construction sector, will help the construction industry remain an important source of jobs for Australians now and into the future. Many businesses will need to continue to adapt their business models, approaches and ways of working. This may also include developing new products and services.

While there will be some significant changes in the jobs market, health care and social assistance will continue to be the largest employing industry across the country. Retail, accommodation and food services, education and training, and manufacturing industries will continue to provide many jobs, even if some of these jobs need to change to meet future needs. The professional and technology sector has shown resilience through the impacts of COVID-19 and there is evidence it could grow in importance and provide greater employment opportunities in the future. Overall, at the time of writing, there are some initial signs that business confidence and the jobs market may soon start to improve as a result of positive health outcomes, government assistance and the gradual easing of restrictions.

In the longer-term, Australia’s labour market recovery depends on many factors, including responses to future outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus, the demand for products and services, investment and broader global conditions.


9. Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s COVID-19 survey of businesses, 2020.

2.2: Matching skills and jobs — an introduction to JEDI

2.2: Matching skills and jobs — an introduction to JEDI Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:37

JEDI is a flagship NSC project that will deliver intelligence on skills needs.

By harnessing the best and widest range of labour market, skills and education data available, JEDI can identify what skills from

a person’s current or previous employment can transfer to different jobs that use similar skills. It also identifies skill gaps between the different jobs recommended before showing VET courses available to fill the gap.

Using data science, JEDI is pioneering a new approach to skills-based labour market analysis that is helping:

  • people planning their career and exploring study options
  • businesses looking at their workforce plan
  • training providers designing courses.

JEDI also provides a single comprehensive source of up-to-date information enabling the NSC to provide relevant, timely and accessible information to better understand the needs of a changing economy.

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Man in mask cleaning the inside of a lift

Building skills profiles with the Australian Skills Classification

As part of the JEDI project, the NSC (and its forerunners in the Department) has developed a data-driven Australian Skills Classification. It enables exploration of the connections and transferability within, and between, jobs and qualifications.

So far, around 600 skills profiles have been developed for occupations in the Australian labour market. For each of these jobs, the classification presents core competencies, specialised tasks and technology tools.

Figure 1: The make-up of skills profiles

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Source: NSC analysis

Source: NSC analysis

Figure 1

The figure displays the three components of a skills profile. Core competencies (which underpins all jobs), specialised tasks (detail the work activities for a job) and Technology tools (associated with a job). They are displayed in a circle which flows together.

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Blue circle with white outline of documents

So far, around 600 skills profiles have been developed for occupations in the Australian labour market.

2.3: Core competencies — importance of a set of base transferable skills

2.3: Core competencies — importance of a set of base transferable skills Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:37

What is a core competency?

Core competencies are the basic building blocks common across most occupations and industries. They describe a set of non-specialist skills gained in early life and schooling and provide a base to further develop skills and specialties . Popular terms for these include ‘foundation skills’, ‘common skills’, ‘soft skills’, ‘core skills’ and ‘employability skills’.

Understanding the importance of core competencies in jobs is particularly important for young people, who are yet to develop other specialist skills required for different occupations.

As part of the Australian Skills Classification work, the NSC identified 10 core competencies required for every occupation in Australia.

Table 5: Australian Skills Classification core competencies

Teamwork Working effectively with others and personally connecting with others for work and learning.
Initiative and innovation Taking on responsibilities and challenges, being able to start up and carry out projects and generating options to cope with changes.
Planning and organising Developing specific goals and plans to prioritise, organise and complete work and learning.
Oral communication

Talking to others to convey information effectively, giving full attention to what other people are saying and understanding the conversation

Digital literacy Identifying and using technology (including hardware and software) confidently, creatively and critically.
Reading Interpreting, comprehending and interacting with written words.
Writing Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
Problem solving

Identifying problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Learning Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
Numeracy Understanding numbers and using mathematics to solve problems.

Source: NSC analysis

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The purpose of identifying core competencies

Core competencies are highly desired by employers. A 2019 survey of employers asked about the importance of personal skills, which are a key component of employability skills. The survey results indicated that 75 per cent of employers considered personal skills to be as important, if not more important, than specialist skills10.

Core competencies developed from previous jobs can also be applied to other jobs. To help inform this understanding, the Australian Skills Classification shows the importance of each core competency across different occupations in the Australian labour market. A rating scale for the importance of each of the core competencies is currently being refined and measure descriptions for the scale are being developed.

Analysis in action: core competencies heat map

Figure 2 shows how important each core competency is in some of the largest employing occupations in Australia11. The colours compare the level of importance of each skill across occupations. The rank (1 to 10) indicates the importance of each core competency within an occupation. For example, for Truck Drivers, planning and organisation is the most important core competency, whereas for Sales Assistants, the most important core competency is teamwork. Registered Nurses have high importance for 70 per cent of the core competencies, whereas core competencies are less important (but still necessary) for Commercial Cleaners.

Figure 2: Importance of core competencies across 10 largest employing occupations

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Source: NSC analysis

Figure 2 – Importance of core competencies across 10 largest employing occupations

This chart shows how important ten core competencies such as reading, writing, and oral communication are across the ten largest employing occupations. It does this by first ranking them out of ten within each occupation and then grouping them into high, medium and low importance categories to compare their importance across all occupations. It shows that some of the larger employing occupations such as Registered Nurse and General Clerks consider the core competencies to be of higher importance than lower employing occupations such Commercial Cleaners and Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers.


10. Department of Education, Skills and Employment, Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences, 2019.

11.Top 10 largest employing occupations based on ABS Labour Force survey, Detailed, Quarterly, February 2020, (Cat. No. 6291.0.55.003).

2.4: Specialised tasks

2.4: Specialised tasks Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:38

What is a specialised task?

A specialised task is a work activity a person undertakes specific to a job. These are specialist tasks required to be performed for specific jobs, and expressed in the way employees and employers talk about how work is done in the workplace.

The purpose of identifying specialised tasks

The Australian Skills Classification identifies specialised tasks for around 600 occupations in the Australian labour market in a way that allows these tasks to be compared across different occupations. This information identifies how specialised tasks in one job can be transferred to another — enabling specialised tasks gaps to be identified. These gaps could be met by multiple pathways such as learning on the job, short courses or accredited training.

Transferability of specialised tasks

Understanding the transferability of specialised tasks is important for students and workers at all stages of their career. It can open people’s eyes to other jobs that might use their skills and help them choose education and training pathways that align to their interests and areas of demand into the future.

Figure 3 shows how the specialised skills a Beauty Therapist has, such as client assistance and record management, can transfer to a Youth Worker. These are called transferable skills: the building blocks to help a person move to a new, higher paid job projected to grow. However, to transition to a new role, some specific skills gaps need to be addressed. Youth Workers also usually require a qualification such as a Certificate IV in Youth Work or a Diploma of Youth Work.

Having successfully attained the skills necessary to become a Youth Worker, multiple career pathways open up. These pathways include jobs in community care, allied health and human care, community justice and safety and other social professions.

Figure 3: Transferable skills between Beauty Therapist and Youth Worker (VET)

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Source: NSC analysis

Source: NSC analysis

Figure 3

This diagram shows 3 transferable skills for a beauty therapist – record management, client assistance and inventory maintenance. Transitioning to a youth worker requires training which provides additional skills. The additional skills gained through study are client interviewing, record keeping, referrals, report writing, health care advice, collaboration, policy and procedure advice, presentation. The diagram then shows which of the skills gained as a beauty therapist and youth worker transfer to other job roles including drug and alcohol counsellor, disability services officer, parole and probation officer, family support worker and occupational health and safety adviser.

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Male factory worker wearing mask in blue overalls

2.5: Digital literacy and technology tools

2.5: Digital literacy and technology tools Suzanne Cooper Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:38

What is a technology tool?

A technology tool is software that enables a person to perform tasks related to an occupation. We use technology tools to perform many tasks in our daily lives including using the internet, sending emails, texts or instant messages, and connecting remotely with video conferencing.

Technology tools range from those more basic and commonly used, such as search engines and email, to highly specialised and occupation-specific tools like computer aided design (CAD) and accounting software.

The Australian Skills Classification provides a list of technology tools used across different occupations. Of the top 20 most commonly used technology tools across all jobs in the Australian economy, the most demanded is data base user interface and query software, which is used in more than 40 per cent of jobs (see Chart 17). This software accesses information stored in a data base and includes the use of a worker using online search engines, a librarian cataloguing books, or a postal delivery driver requesting a list of delivery locations.

Chart 17: Top 20 most demanded software technology tools across all jobs in the Australian economy

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Source: NSC analysis

Source: NSC analysis

The most demanded software technology tool is data base user interface and query, used by 43 per cent of all occupations. This is followed, in order of decreasing demand, by word processing, spreadsheet, email, and office suite software at around 30 per cent of all occupations. The remainder of the top 20 list is a mix of the commonly used and occupation-specific technology with use across all occupations ranging from 15 to 27 per cent.

Of the around 600 occupations within the skills classification, more than 75 per cent have at least one technology tool relevant to the occupation. Even for occupations that require limited use of technology tools in day-to-day work, they still are an important part of performing tasks in that job successfully.

The most used technology tools for a Truck Driver (see Figure 4) demonstrate that even though the primary task is driving a truck, technology tools support Truck Drivers to more efficiently and effectively perform other tasks, such as managing inventory and route planning.

Figure 4: Technology tools used by Truck Drivers

Technology Tool
Inventory management software
Data base user interface and query software
Industrial control software
Materials requirements planning logistics and supply chain software
Office suite software
Route navigation software
Spreadsheet software

Source: NSC analysis

Given the constant evolution of technology and the many occupations that now rely on these tools to perform tasks in a productive manner, use of technology tools will continue to grow and be a key part of participating successfully in the labour market.

Example: How JEDI can assist hospitality workers

The hospitality sector was significantly affected by COVID-19 due to restrictions, such as social distancing, imposing on their operations. Many workers across this sector are looking for new jobs.

Like all jobs, those in hospitality require a mix of core competencies, specialised tasks and technology tools. JEDI can identify skills that hospitality workers have and illustrate how they can transfer to other jobs. For example, a Waiter could transfer their existing skills and experience to jobs such as Bar Attendants and Baristas, Pharmacy Sales Assistants, Information Officers and ICT Sales (see Figure 5).

By identifying transferable skills and skills gaps, we can also identify what job would be the easiest for a Waiter to transition into: a Bar Attendant or Barista. While this may be an easier transition, jobs for Bar Attendants and Baristas are not currently in demand. However, Information Officer jobs are currently more in demand, though require additional skills such as invoice processing, computer skills and problem-solving. While Information Officers do not require formal qualifications, the skills gaps could be bridged through courses such as a Certificate III in Customer Engagement, or possibly even through on-the-job training.

Figure 5: Potential job transition options for a Waiter with a skills comparison

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Source: NSC analysis

Source: NSC analysis

Figure 5

Transferable skills and skills gaps from a waiter to four different occupations: Bar attendants and baristas, Pharmacy sales, ICT Sales, and Information Officer. Transferable skills include communication skills, customer service, and team work. The skills gaps include bartending, grinder operation, inventory management, and computer skills.

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Male IT tech wearing glasses  holding laptop checking circuit board