Labor’s Husic to convene tech skills roundtable

Brandon How

Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic will convene a special tech industry roundtable to decide on urgent action to address growth inhibiting skills shortages across the sector.

Mr Husic said he would invite representation from groups ranging from the Tech Council of Australia, the Australian Information Industry Association, and the Australian Computer Society to provide input ahead of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’ national job summit next month.

Speaking at a Tech Council of Australia event at Parliament House in Canberra to new research, Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic acknowledged the skills challenge facing the tech sector was significant.

And the challenge has just become more difficult. Prior to the election, the Albanese government signed up to a Tech Council target to have 1.2 million Australians employed in tech jobs by 2030. But that target will require 313,000 more workers than originally forecast, according to a new roadmap produced by the Tech Council of Australia and Accenture.

Of the 653,000-target figure, the roadmap states that 320,000 can be filled by reskilled and upskilled workers, and 160,000 positions will be filled by skilled migrants. Minister Husic said that further work should be done to improve industry level analysis of workforce data.

Tech Council chief executive Kate Pounder

Mr Husic said that tech jobs would be a top priority for the promised 465,000 fee-free TAFE places and additional 20,000 university places the government has committed to.

He said that the government would act on each of the five calls for action in the Tech Council report.

These are:

  • Increasing understanding and awareness of job opportunities
  • Fixing gaps in education and training products and pathways
  • Improving the diversity of the tech workforce
  • Targeting skilled migration to areas of high need and greatest shortages
  • Improving industry-level supply and demand analysis

As it stands, vacancy rates for technical and experienced tech roles are 60 per cent higher than the national average and are forecast to grow at triple the rate, according to the report. The most severe shortages are in technical occupations like software programmers and computer network professionals.

While the annual number of completed bachelor’s degrees had grown by 67 per cent between 2016 to 2020 and postgraduate completions had grown by 180 per cent, this rise had been driven by international students who leave Australia upon graduating, the report found.

Of the 12,200 students who completed ICT related bachelor’s degrees in 2021, only 4,600 students were local students.

Further, vocational education and training (VET) course completions had flatlined, with as only half of VET students in IT related courses being employed in better jobs following completion.

Chief executive of the Digital Skills Organisation (DSO) Patrick Kidd notes that at least 60,000 people need to be trained annually to reach the tech worker target, which is six times as great as the 10,000 currently trained.

“There’s a massive delta between what we need versus what we’re currently doing. And unless we think of different ways of doing things, really sort of picking up the best practices in so many respects,” Mr Kidd said.

The report, produced by the Tech Council and Accenture, was launched as a part of a tech innovation showcase event held in Parliament House by the Tech Council and the federally funded Digital Skills Organisation. Input to the report also came from the Digital Employers Forum established by the Tech Council and the Digital Skills Organisation in December.

Anchor partners to the forum include BHP, Commonwealth Bank, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, NBN Co, Swinburne University of Technology, the Australian Technology Network of Universities, and the Australian Government.

The Tech Council of Australia (TCA) report defines tech workforce jobs broadly, to include four distinct categories. These include technical professionals and digital technicians and trades. Also included are operation and support jobs, such as human resources and law as well as creative and commercial roles, such as user experience designers and product managers.

By this definition, one in 16 working Australians work in tech jobs, with more software engineers and developers in Australia than solicitors, plumbers, or hairdressers, according to the report.

TCA chief executive Kate Pounder said expanding tech opportunities for the workforce would increase productivity, but that the country also had a moral imperative to fill them.

“We know that [tech] jobs are amongst the best paid in the country. They’re the fastest growing, they’re the most secure, they are the most flexible. When we create those jobs, and when we create as many doors into them as possible, we’re actually helping our society become a fairer place,” Ms Pounder said.

“We can be an industry and sector creating these jobs that give so many different Australians an opportunity”.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

  1. Digital Koolaid 2 years ago

    Kate Pounder did a BA in Politics, International Studies and English at the University of Adelaide. There’s not 1 tech subject in that degree. Zero. Ask yourself (I do all the time) how people who have no relevant quals, never worked in tech and have no tech skills can contribute to a tech skills talk-fest. Surely they have no idea what they are saying. I say it’s madness. Kate claims expanding tech opportunities will increase productivity – but her BA had no subjects on productivity and it’s not connected to Politics, International Studies and English. And she isn’t lone. Pat Kidd did Business Studies and a MA, not tech. He was a soldier for 30 years. Really, what’s happening here? No offence, but can’t Ed find anyone with real subject matter knowledge? Why not? (Spoiler: Ed Husic did a BA in Applied Communications, not tech).

    • Matilda Rising 2 years ago

      “this rise had been driven by international students who leave Australia upon graduating” – so education is still an export industry. If education served more Australians, more graduates might stay in Australia. Now that international students can work unlimited hours, hopefully they still find time to attend uni and study so that the degrees they pay for are of value when they return to their home nations.

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