ICT worker demand helps worsen national skills crisis

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Almost 70 per cent of ICT jobs are experiencing a skills shortage, making it one of the most in demand occupations in the country during the worst skill shortage in 60 years, according to new data released by Jobs and Skills Australia (JSA).

The agency, established as the Albanese government’s first order of business in Parliament last year, on Wednesday warned the skills crunch is at its worst since the 1960s amid near record low unemployment levels and megatrends like net zero reshaping the economy.

It called for a national effort on skills, with the vocational and higher education sectors to do the heavy lifting in conjunction with the migration system.

The inaugural Jobs and Skills Report was released on Wednesday, shortly after Treasury’s Employment Whitepaper but ahead of other key movements like the universities accord, migration strategy and a new National Skills Agreement.

Along with the new Skills Priority List, it lays out exactly where the shortages are and reveals 332 out of 916 occupations are in national shortage – around 36 per cent and five per cent more than 2022.

About 48 per cent of the ‘professionals’ group – a collection of 55 white collar roles like engineering, ICT or science – are in a skills shortage. It is up from 39 per cent last year and only the technicians and trade workers group is in worse shape on skills.

The shortages in professional occupations were driven by health and ICT professionals, with the groups experiencing shortages of 80 per cent and 69 per cent respectively.

Software and application programmers remain one of the most in demand specific occupation, among the top three in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and the most in demand in the ACT.

Last year’s list show similar strong demand for large parts of the local tech sector.

JSA said the three-year trend in worsening overall skills shortages shows the labour market is not adjusting quickly to the shortages with real wage increases. Pay bumps are often only considered as a “last resort”, the report said, with employers opting to restructure organisations, change how they advertise use migration programs instead.

“We’ve actually found that very few employers changed remuneration in response to failing to fill vacancies in the last year – about one in 100,” Professor Richard Dawkins, the interim head of JSA, said.

Professor Dawkins, who is serving in the role until JSA is set up more completely, laid out the new agency’s plan to tackle the shortage in an address to the National Press Club.

JSA has recommended a new roadmap for the national skills system that consults widely and starts by identifying pressures and drivers. It would then move to system reform and implementation, with set milestones and goals monitored and adjusted for emerging pressures and drivers.

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