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Universities will offer more than 20 shortened courses – including in teaching, cybersecurity, engineering and nursing – as the Albanese government moves to plug chronic skills shortages across the country.
Education Minister Jason Clare will on Sunday announce the creation of 28 short courses – known as “micro-credentials” – from 18 universities as part of a pilot program.
Education Minister Jason Clare said the short courses would help fill skills shortages.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
A total of $18.5 million will be provided to support the development of the courses, including IT, engineering, science, nursing, and teaching.
“Micro-credentials can help Australians upskill and reskill to prepare for the jobs of the future,” Clare said.
Micro-credentials are short, focused courses in a specific area of study, designed to teach and upskill people quickly, and have been growing in popularity in recent years.
As part of the pilot program, University of New South Wales will run a short course from early next year in hydrogen production for students and graduates in electrical engineering, which will run for between 10 and 13 weeks.
Dr Matthew Priestley, the lead technology translator in the Energy Systems Research Group at UNSW, said the green hydrogen industry was a great example of where micro-credentials were needed.
He said too many electrical engineers needed to learn skills in hydrogen production on the job, while companies were looking to overseas workers to plug the gap.
“We want electrical engineers in Australia who are all across the chemical part and the mechanical engineering part of how hydrogen works,” Priestley said.
“There’s a massive shortage of electrical engineers in Australia to decarbonise our economy, let alone in hydrogen.”
He said micro-credentials were a great way to fill skills gaps, but they should not be used to re-badge courses that were already in a degree or to skip steps in a degree.
“There needs to be a need for that training and a very specific group of people that want to pay for that training,” Priestley said.
“I think universities at the moment are not geared up for micro-credentials in the way that they are for delivering the normal courses … it’s a bit of a shift of thinking to go down the micro-credential path.
“I’m not sure that anyone at the moment is nailing it in Australia, if I am honest. But this course that we’re building here is a really big step in the right direction.”
Another example of a new micro-credential is a short course at the University of Southern Queensland to teach scientists and surveyors how to operate drones and other navigation systems.
The Australian Catholic University plans to offer a micro-credential in phonics to teachers so they can better teach literacy.
The federal government will work with the 18 successful universities to finalise the conditions of grant arrangements.
A second round of funding planned within the next 12 months will allow for more universities to participate in the pilot.
The courses target domestic students, and are supported by the Commonwealth’s FEE-HELP loan scheme.
The students will receive a digital badge and certificate on completion which stays on their record and can go on their CVs.
The move comes after the Albanese government launched the MicroCred Seeker platform in December 2022, which features 425 micro-credential courses from 56 registered providers.
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