The nature of the digital world means that industry is left scrambling to keep up with the pace of technological growth. Employees are increasingly required to be across many platforms, processes and technologies. Traditional educational models cannot keep up with the fast rate of change, which is where innovative start-ups like Academy Xi step in.
With a combined 20 years’ experience in design and innovation, Ben Wong and Charbel Zeaiter founded Academy Xi in early 2016 after identifying and predicting skills gaps in the market. ‘It’s been really interesting seeing the change in skills in the past five years. Now, mediums such as virtual reality are gaining traction on a commercial level, so we are aiming to bridge the skills gap that will emerge in the immediate future.’
According to Australia’s Digital Pulse report released last year, the contribution of digital technologies to the Australian economy is forecast to grow from $79 billion in 2014 to $139 billion in 2020. This represents growth of over 75% and an increase in the digital economy from 5% to 7% of Australia’s GDP. As a result, the ICT (information and communications technology) workforce is expected to increase to around 695,000 ICT workers by 2020.
Academy Xi offers courses in virtual reality design, user experience design, service design and product management, as well as training for teams and individuals looking to upskill. Weekend and part-time courses allow students to prepare for a career change or add to their existing skillset, while maintaining a full-time job.
Instructors in the VR course include Daniel Sim Lind, a VR creative technologist with 20 years’ experience commercialising new technology. Scott O’Brien, founder of Augmented Reality OMG, is another. He has been involved with augmented reality since 2009. Instructors with a background in film, theatre, production and project designers are also taking part.
As well as the flagship courses, Academy Xi has created a community around the digital and innovation space, including short courses, free talks and workshops, and networking events. Courses and events are currently held in campuses in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with plans for greater expansion.
While start-up training organisations generally offer only online courses, Academy Xi uses face-to-face classes to leverage the power of its people. ‘The context of learning is important,’ said Wong. ‘Many of our courses need to be interactive and immersive. The benefits of our classes tend to be 40% from the content, 40% from the experience and 20% from melding the two.’
Like other tech start-ups, Academy Xi has identified the power of tech in affecting social change. The business walks its talk, using a distributive education model to establish social change programs. Academy Xi has been working with Remarkable, a disability-focused program which provides funding, mentors and masterclasses for start-ups focused on inclusivity and innovation in the disability sector.
‘We are not just about commerce, we actually have a purpose and a pulse to what we do. We want to show that we do fundamentally care,’ said Zeaiter.