IoT Skills Australia recently soft-launched the first unit of its cybersecurity awareness program – some might say that’s smart timing, considering the increased attention the issue is getting from federal government.
The training provider is seeking to work with organisations in the IoT community to roll out the program, which features short courses in such baseline skills as protecting personal information and identifying phishing scams. These may not be specific to IoT, but they can be connected, as some security breaches have demonstrated.
IoT Skills Australia is also a sponsor of the 2021 IoT Awards. We asked its CEO David Cross to comment on the state of play in IoT training.
What key IoT-related skills challenges do you see?
Two key issues will drive the next decade – and the period between now and 2025 is a window not to be missed in setting up for success. The first issues is Industry 4.0, or the impact on individuals and organisations of artificial intelligence and the rapid escalation of connectedness. Ai will be industry agnostic, predicted to impact just about every occupation and industry and certainly daily life.
The energy sector encompassing electrotechnology, telecommunications, mining, oil & gas, and those IoT Skills Australia is most closely associated with, will be first-adopters or drivers of change – if not through utilisation, through invention. Mining is already well advanced, with remote driving of otherwise autonomous vehicles, adoption of drones or the like.
The convergence between electrotechnology and telecommunications has been underway for more than a decade and continues its journey in developing applications and skills that power the implementation of Industry 4.0.
The second issue is also a skills issue. It is about empowering those confronting these new technologies not just with the skills to adopt and adapt to changing technologies, but to do it safely. We must assist this next wave with the skills to safely integrate this technology.
IoT Skills Australia begins this journey with a Cybersecurity Awareness Skill Set, providing confidence and resilience in detecting and managing potential breaches designed to threaten operations and the financial capacity of organisations, if not the individuals themselves. Sadly, first movers are not always there for the right reasons!
Workforce retraining via vocational training, short courses and micro-credentialing is needed to give workforces digital skills. What’s working? What isn’t working?
As is often the case, the training community’s response to such threats takes time – sometimes too long. Its response is often geared to driving skills narrowly and high. This is not the training fraternities’ fault as there should be thorough industry consultation and consensus-building about the skills that are needed, and it should account for the specific issues identified as problematic for industry. This all takes time to achieve.
Training-the-trainers is part of this delay. That’s because the challenges are often quick to emerge but take longer to solve, and experience is often a function of time. This description is most often representative of the waters to be the chartered in accredited training. Micro-credentials allow for a much more rapid response and are useful as they can begin to tackle an area quickly and help solve immediate issues of focus. They can also inform accredited training outcomes.
Narrowly based, highly skilled training is a natural tendency of all training efforts, because by nature humans seek deep understanding and knowledge. In the case of IoT and AI, and in light of the estimated $33 billion reportedly lost annually to cybercrime in this country, it is important to support bottom-end skills needs with simple tools that provide a wide base of resilience and awareness.
IoT Skills Australia advocates these tools as important to building confidence and to avoid unscrupulous acts that would otherwise delay or damage the adoption of new technologies. To deal with AI and IoT, IoT Skills Australia promotes immediate action in achieving a wide skills base as part of, and in advance of, building narrowly based, highly skilled training outcomes.
IoT Alliance Australia CEO Frank Zeichner previously suggested that training should not just be about how to use new hardware and software. He argued it should be placed in a systematic framework encompassing the impact of new and real-time data on processes and the delivery of end-to-end services. How can this be achieved?
Real-time data is just another tool in what has been with industries for a very long time – the use of ‘experiential learning’ in skilling labour and informing operational systems. Learning on the job or ‘learning by doing’ is extremely valuable and this has always been the case.
From a base level of skills, where physical safety and cyber safety is paramount, setting the workforce free to discover the best or better ways to achieve an outcome usually delivers superior results more rapidly. In fact, this is the basis of innovation, noting that most innovation is adaptation of another’s idea into a unique application. The talent inherent in the Australian workforce to initiate, integrate and evolve a process should never be taken for granted. It’s about working smarter and defining the right settings and frameworks for success.
What key progress or key achievements addressing IoT skills in Australia have you seen in the last two years?
The training sector has certainly moved to address industry requirements, and accredited Certificate IV and above-type courses are emerging. For some this is already a step too far, as they require a baseline of understanding that some in the community are yet to embrace. So individuals are missed and unable to get to the ‘start line’. We need to do more for these cohorts, but not to the detriment of progressing those that can and do.
The most significant moves have been the Federal Government’s efforts to help prepare the community for attacks by those seeking to breach operational or financial defences. The $1.35 billion the government has made available to tackle cybersecurity issues is critically important, but these cannot just be in building higher or more secure physical environments; it must also be about building capacity and capability for those confronted with these threats daily. This realisation is the biggest achievement to date and now we must build upon it.
What work is IoT Skills Australia involved in to address these challenges?
Designing a programme to provide skills in IoT can be a challenge, in part because IoT is not a stand-alone technology, scientific discipline or archetype. Rather, it is a combination of existing and well-established fields, including communication networks, embedded programming, AI and computer security.
IoT Skills Australia works in partnership with the training sector and industry to combine these rather isolated fields together and create meaningful programmes, and to explore and teach their interactions. IoT Skills Australia equips individuals and organisations with the foundational skills for a safer, more secure work and personal environment across the Australian community.
We aim to provide introductory skills to protect an individual’s personal information and sensitive personal data, identify vulnerabilities and strengths of their IoT devices – such as strong passwords, up-to-date operating systems and segmented networks – and recognise potential attackers and profile their possible methods and detect any possible attack paths.
IoT Skills Australia (IoTSA) believes that a successful IoT training programme combines a technical background with practical experience and soft skills development to provide individuals and organisations with the necessary skills to flourish in the IoT field.
What has been the outcome?
On October 1, 2021, IoT Skills Australia soft-launched the first unit of its Cybersecurity Awareness Skill Set. This initiative has been welcomed, but it is too early to measure its impact. IoT Skills Australia seeks to work with like-minded enterprises to implement its short two-hour online awareness training program to measure and evolve the product to meet industry needs. We welcome enquiries from those in the IoT community to trial and roll out our program.
Learn more about IoT Skills Australia by visiting http://www.iotskills.com.au.
IoT Skills Australia is the sponsor of the Energy Award category in the 2021 IoT Awards. See the winners announced here at 1pm AEDT on November 9.
IoT Alliance Australia is celebrating the IoT Awards with a special offer for new members: Join between 9 and 30 November and receive 20 per cent off your first year’s membership fee. From opportunities to work on cutting edge projects, to building skills and networking, active membership pays off. Joining is easy. Go to iot.org.au/join/, look for the link to the Membership Centre and enter this code 9RAV5GN1578A.