The government has unlocked another $10 million of funding for its higher education microcredential program that incentivises universities to create short courses that will help upskill the workforce, especially for much-needed IT and digital skills.

A further 50 short courses will join the program as part of its second funding round, for which applications opened up last week.

Earlier this year, the government announced the first 28 microcredential courses it was funding through the program.

That cohort had a strong focus on cyber security and IT skills, including for digital skills related to other professions like health and architecture.

Education Minister Jason Clare said microcredentials could “help Australians prepare for the jobs of the future”.

“With more and more jobs requiring a post-school qualification, it is increasingly important for people to upskill and reskill throughout their careers,” he said.

“This investment means more Australians can get the skills in areas we need, such as teaching, nursing, and engineering.”

Australia’s shortage of IT professionals is well-documented.

While skilled migration is an important part of addressing these shortages, successive governments have tried to address a lack of locals taking up these much-needed careers – especially when there is an overlap of lacking expertise, as in teaching.

Michelle Chomiak, an IT educator and consultant from WA, told Information Age the microcredential program could give teachers a chance to improve their IT skills and help inspire the next generation of tech professionals.

“There is currently a lack of Computing Education options for teachers, and this is already becoming apparent with the lack of teachers applying for advertised Digital Technologies teaching positions, requiring many to be re-advertised,” she said.

“So, more options are needed to up-skill teachers for teaching Digital Technologies, and this micro-credentialing scheme may well provide a great opportunity to address that need.”

All short courses funded through the program must be made available through the MicroCred Seeker website, a single access point for hundreds of microcredentials offered by universities and other training providers.

Courses are broken down into broad categories and presented with the most important information – cost, duration, whether it’s online or in-person, and the start date – presented upfront.

There is also a small label to indicate expected pre-existing expertise in the relevant field (eg novice, competent, expert).

The MicroCred is a marketplace for short courses, taking information out of the institutions into a centralised – and partly government-run – database.

“The government’s microcredentials pilot is an important initiative supporting universities to deliver short courses that upskill or retain people quickly and efficiently, getting them into the workforce faster,” Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said.

“More than half of the nearly one million new jobs projected to be created over the next five years will require a university degree, which is why it’s vital we skill up Australians at all stages of their careers.

“More skilled workers in our economy is key to boosting Australia’s productivity and driving economic growth.”