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The top emerging digital skills for 2021

50 per cent of all employees, everywhere, will need to reskill by 2025 to keep up with the skills gap

Here are a few statistics that might alarm you.


Australia will need 156,000 more digital technology workers by 2025, which represents about one-in-four jobs created during that time. Over 87 per cent of jobs in Australia already require digital literacy skills. And yet one quarter of employees say their data skills aren’t up to scratch, half of them receive no employer provided training, and more than half have little or no understanding of technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, data visualisation and coding.

These stats have all emerged from the Ready, Set, Upskill - Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow report, from RMIT Online and Deloitte Access Economics. The report suggests a looming skills shortage for tech workers, and Australian workers in general. Basically, as a country, we’re not learning fast enough.

We’re not alone, either. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, about 50 per cent of all employees, everywhere, will need to reskill by 2025.


Here are the top emerging digital skills for 2021—and beyond.


1. Software Development


LinkedIn has already identified software development—specifically Python programming and algorithm design—as one of the top digital literacy skills for the next five years. Over 58 per cent of all new jobs in STEM are in computing, but only 8 per cent of STEM graduates have studied computer science. This is obviously a massive problem, and it’s why software development skills will be highly sought-after, and highly lucrative, in the years ahead. Emerging languages like Rust and Dart will be useful, but experts say it’s still hard to go past Java and JavaScript as “bankable language to learn.”


2. Project Management


With more and more businesses looking to manage digital transformation in the wake of the pandemic, certified Scrum Masters and Agile-trained project managers are going to be in hot demand. Australia already has approximately 570,000 project management professionals, and the Project Management Institute expects 22 million global PM job openings by 2027. Perhaps the biggest change we’ll see here is a move towards generalist skillsets: project management won’t be just a job title anymore, but a necessary skill for a broad range of industries, from IT to product management and digital marketing.


3. Data Analysis


The Australian data analysis market is expected to grow 20 per cent year-on-year between now and 2025. And it’s not hard to understand why. Businesses are growingly increasingly reliant on customer and purchase data to make smart decisions, particularly in the wake of COVID-19. Like project management, data analysis won’t just benefit dedicated data scientists; it’ll become an essential skill for all professionals. Data analysis also overlaps with other future-proof fields, like machine learning and AI, which provides career flexibility down the track. As Gartner VP Peter Sondergaard says, “Information is the oil of the 21st century, and analytics is the combustion engine.”


4. Digital Marketing


As consumer behaviour shifts rapidly online—e-commerce sales alone shot up 77 per cent in Australia during the pandemic—businesses everywhere have become increasingly reliant on their digital marketing team. LinkedIn identified digital marketing as one of 2021’s top emerging tech skills. Marketers who aren’t savvy with analytics, algorithm changes, data visualization and machine learning will get slowly, and then rapidly, left behind. The ADMA specifically recommends brushing up on customer journey mapping, channel mapping and voice search. Zuni MD Mike Zeederberg says it’s going to be a learning curve for everyone, “We are seeing a much broader range of digital skills needed, so nearly everyone will have gaps.”


5. Product Management


We’ve written before about the product management (PM) skills gap in Australia, and COVID-19 has don’t nothing to slow-down industry demand. Australia needs skilled product managers to oversee efficient growth, roll-out necessary digital products, and handle the transition to remote work. You’ll need a collection of soft skills like good communication, teamwork and time management, but PMs should also be looking to hone their customer research and business analysis skills (SQL is a great place to start, if you’re unsure).


If you’re interested in improving your digital skills, check out RMIT Online’s short course portfolio here.