$3.4m boost for women’s digital tech training

The workplace of the future is here and Flinders University’s Diploma of Digital Technologies is expanding with a further 120 places for women to gain practical high-tech digital skills vital for their career path and to meet workplace demand for upskilled workers.

The latest $3.4 million commitment from the Commonwealth Government is in line with the demand for digital upskilling around Australia and follows the first round of funding for women in STEM in 2021.

Professor Giselle Rampersad, right, with Tamara Cardillo (BAE), left to right, digital diploma student Laurie Tonks (and her daughter Sophie) and Annette Fleming (Nova Systems) at Line Zero, Factory of the Future at the Tonsley Innovation District.

“This successful course has already benefited workers around Australia from a range of industries, from advanced manufacturing, defence and space to wine, government, small-to-medium businesses – and STEM teachers who will encourage more students into engineering and other fields – and is helping to raise equity and new opportunities for women in STEM careers,” says Program Director, Flinders University Professor of Innovation Giselle Rampersad.

“Our award-winning Diploma of Digital Technologies, supported by the federally funded Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeship Program, will now add to the success of the first round of funding, and build on the 150 women currently gaining skills through the program,” says Professor Rampersad, who also is co-director of the Flinders Centre for Defence Engineering Research and Training, based at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide.

Digital upskilling is aligned with government policy and is key for Australia’s future, with the Megatrends Report (2022) forecasting that the nation will need an estimated 6.5 million more digital workers by 2025 – an increase of 79% from 2020 – to keep up with technological change. The Government’s target of creating 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030 was discussed at the recent Jobs and Skills Summit.

The Flinders University diploma course offers online and intensive workshops in topics covering cybersecurity, 3D printing, robotics and autonomous technologies, IoT and sensor-based systems, electronics, design and CAD, innovation and Industry 4.0.

It has expanded nationally and regionally providing professional development opportunities to women across 100 organisations, in every State and Territory in Australia. This includes at least 50 women in defence, manufacturing and space industries, 50 women in the wine and winegrape sectors, and 50 STEM teachers.

Regional and metropolitan secondary STEM teachers who took part in the first course – including Linda Tsai from Alice Springs, centre with baby.

Alice Springs high school teacher Linda Tsai says she “thoroughly enjoyed” this course offered by Flinders University.

“The administrative and academic staff have been extremely accommodating and flexible for a mum of three children under 5 years old,” she says.

“I’ve always had an interest in engineering, electronics and robotics but struggled to understand it on my own.

“The pace and pedagogies have been planned well and definitely recommend this course to others! Extremely grateful for the federal grant and this precious opportunity.”

Professor Rampersad says the program is “proving the outcomes of the collaboration can be replicated across a range of industry and can be further expanded and scaled to others, including renewables and medical technologies.

Diploma participant Gemma Charles, Commercial Manager – Third Party, Pernod Ricard Winemakers. Go to: https://www.flinders.edu.au/women-in-wine

“Indeed, the program is significant in promoting and elevating equity and access across the higher education sector nationally,” she says.

“There is outstanding innovation happening, which is an exemplar model for developing a future enabled workforce in collaboration with industry, for economic development and jobs growth for our young people.”

The program started in 2020 with industry partner BAE Systems and 300 workers have now undertaken the Flinders University Diploma of Digital Technologies – including 51 shipbuilders upskilling for the $35 billion Hunter Class Frigate Program and personnel from around 150 organisations around Australia.

The Flinders University program met another milestone this year with 70 interstate female participants, with several Queensland participants from Boeing Defence involved in aerospace manufacturing, Lockheed Martin in NSW and SA, small-medium sized enterprises, Nova Systems as well as BAE sites around Australia.

BAE Systems Australia Chief People Officer Danielle Mesa says: “This has been a great program that started with upskilling shipbuilders for the future – but it’s now so much more than that.”

“Now it’s not just ensuring our people are ready to embrace the new technologies needed for the Hunter Class Frigate Program but the broader defence manufacturing industry which is undergoing rapid change,” she says.


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