The talent shortage in Australia’s technology market is not new, but what has slipped under the radar is an additional gap in the supply of non-technical skills, according to a just-published Startup Talent Gap report.
Compiled by startup sector lobbyists StartupAus, together with Microsoft, University of Technology Sydney and Google, is based on data from LinkedIn and in-depth interviews with scale-up startups.
It has identified that there is an equal talent shortage for startup-focused sales roles, including account managers and business development managers, as there is for coders and user experience designers.
The report also found data scientists, along with product managers – the technical position which controls the creation, and development of a company’s core products – had been identified as suffering shortages in the Australian market.
Product roles are prioritised by startups early, the report revealed. It also showed that closing skills gaps of non-technical roles could offer significant growth potential for businesses looking to hire in these important roles.
StartupAus spokesman Alex Gruszka said demand for non-technical roles by startups is just as great as demand for more technical roles.
“It shouldn’t be surprising because these fast-growing businesses need non-technical roles to help them grow, to help them manage their business, and to manage their sales and marketing. At the end of the day [startups] are businesses, and running them requires these types of business skills,” he told InnovationAus.com
However, generally hiring for the non-tech roles is not the problem, said Mr Gruszka, it’s finding people that are suitable to be employed in these scale-up companies.
“The reason why startups are finding them the most difficult to hire is because the sales and marketing roles they’re looking to fill are slightly different from the traditional sales and marketing types, partly because people who take on these roles need to have a decent understanding of technology,” he said.
As a result of this non-technical skills shortage, Mr Gruszka said local startups are increasingly looking for people outside of Australia fill the roles.
He acknowledged that scrapping the 457 visa had hurt the tech ecosystem’s ability to fill these gaps, but is optimistic that with the new Global Talent Scheme (GTS) now in effect opened the door to attracting more international talent.
The GTS is a pilot visa program that kicked off earlier this month to allow Australian companies to offer four-year visas to tech workers from around the world that don’t exist in Australia. It’s a 12-month trial that will sit under the Temporary Skills Shortage visa scheme.
“There is still more work to be done on how we go about addressing some of those skills gaps and with the global talent scheme now brought in. We’re pretty hopeful that the scheme could really change the gaps in terms of talent imports,” Mr Gruszka said.
The other potential answer to the talent question in the startup ecosystem is changing the education system to better reflect the role, Mr Gruszka said.
“When we think about it there is not degree for a product manager. So what do you to become a product manager? That’s the question we have got to get our heads around,” he said.
“What role does formal education need to play in developing a workforce to meet Australia’s future needs? How does semi-formal education or vocational education play a role. That’s things like TAFE and more recently General Assembly,” he said.
“There is a real opportunity to translate adjacent skills into professional qualifications to see what existing skills we can use to match up with in-demand tech roles and capitalise on helping people transition into some of those roles.”