Skill Finder: Interview with Suzanne Steele
Vice President and Managing Director, Adobe Australia and New Zealand
Monday, 21 March 2022
Article by Josh Edwards, Special Projects Officer, AmCham Australia
Adobe is in the spotlight in the March 2022 edition of the CEO column for an interview on Skill Finder - the digital micro-skills platform taking Australia by storm. Global technology giants including Adobe, Google, Amazon Web Services, and Microsoft came together to bring this project to life. In just 18 months, over 100,000 Australians have used Skill Finder to upskill and reskill across 3,000 online courses. AmCham sat down with Suzanne Steele, Vice President and Managing Director, Adobe Australia and New Zealand, to discuss how Skill Finder is tapping into the future of online learning.
What was the inspiration for Skill Finder?
"In 2020, after the pandemic had first disrupted the lives of so many Australians, the then Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, issued a clarion call for support in rebuilding the economy. At the time, the digital economy had advanced years in only a few months, rapidly accelerating Australians’ need to acquire the digital skills that could future-proof their careers.
Adobe responded, alongside other leaders across the local and global technology sector, taking the lead in bringing everyone to the table. We sought to take on the monumental challenge of upskilling and reskilling Australians to help them thrive in the now more prominent digital economy.
And as the situation called for, this initiative needed to exemplify the agility it was designed to support. Delivering accessible, practical micro-skills provided by leading organisations was a viable answer. With the federal government's support, the world’s first free digital skills marketplace was born."
How is Skill Finder empowering women to reach their professional goals?
"The adoption of Skill Finder across the population tells a compelling story about the proactivity among women when it comes to acquiring new digital skills.
Since November 2020, we have seen 12% more enrolments among women when compared to their male peers, equating to an extra 11,000 users. The most popular course categories are in areas like creative design, business software and data analytics.
For us, this sends a clear signal that women are taking control of their own professional development and upskilling in the areas where demand is highest. And while Skill Finder can make a real difference, it’s really those individuals who deserve the credit for advancing their professional goals."
Skill Finder has brought competing technology giants together, including Adobe, Amazon Web Services, Google, and Microsoft among many more. How was this experience, and is this something we can expect to see more of going forward?
"One of the most incredible parts of developing Skill Finder in the earlier stages was just how quickly competitive differences were set aside in pursuit of the greater goal. This made way for the collaboration and creativity around problem-solving that’s in the sector’s DNA.
Skill Finder now has more than 3,000 courses available provided by 32 partners. We started with a more concentrated group, so the ecosystem has expanded steadily over time.
It’s also proven the benefit of having a unified front to tackling some of the nation’s most significant challenges. We expect that leaders in technology will answer future calls for support, sitting alongside our counterparts from other industries to take on even more significant challenges."
How has AmCham helped Adobe connect with key stakeholders and bring Skill Finder to life?
"AmCham has played a tremendous role in bringing crucial parties together, facilitating meetings between technology industry leaders and ministers and advisers from both sides of government. Given everyone needed to come together to make tangible change, we are grateful for the role that AmCham played.
During this process, bi-partisan support for the initiative was abundant as everyone appreciated the urgent need to develop skills to support the workforce and Australia’s future prosperity."
The structure, pace, and location of learning through Skill Finder puts the user in the driver’s seat. Is this the future of modern learning and professional development?
"It’s about flexibility and accessibility of practical educational content, where users set the terms of engagement. The average course length is only hours, not days, months or years. It shows that people can incrementally build and apply skills as they go, taking its place alongside well-established modes of learning and skills development.
It’s not dissimilar to learning on the job, which we know is one of the most powerful ways to gain new skills. But this wasn’t as accessible during the pandemic, as teams worked remotely and people’s work and family commitments took over. This brought self-directed learning even further to the forefront."
What is a micro skill, and why are they so important?
"Think of a micro-skill as acquiring a very specific and pragmatic capability. For Skill Finder, that could be understanding the basics of using a piece of software, editing your first photo in Adobe Photoshop or learning about Analytics fundamentals for businesses.
It’s important because it provides building blocks for further development at the pace you want to learn but breaks it into manageable and immediately applicable parts.
These are the immediately applicable capabilities employers demand as roles are reshaped in the digital economy. A new technology system might be introduced one day, and you are expected to learn how to use it the next."
What’s next for Skill Finder?
"More than 370,000 Australians have visited Skill Finder, and we’re set to achieve our 100,000th click through to course enrolment by April, only 18 months after the launch. We are attracting new users every day, expanding our partner network and panel course providers.
The next step is to have 200,000 Australians benefit from this learning resource and position their skill sets and capabilities for a more digitally-led future. "