One third of occupations facing acute shortages are tech jobs

Almost a third of Australia’s most in-demand occupations facing shortages are ICT-related professions, according to an annual assessment of Australia’s labour market highlighting areas of acute gaps.

The 2022 Skills Priority List, released by the National Skills Commission on Thursday, is the latest clarion call for training and migration reforms, and comes ahead of a meeting of the Ministerial Skills Council on Friday.

The report reveals shortages in 286 occupations in 2022, almost double the 153 in 2021, following what it describes as “significant tightening in the Australian labour market” over the past year which has resulted in greater vacancies.

“A common pattern uncovered was that occupation shortages were most acute in professional occupations, requiring higher level qualifications and experience, and skill level three occupations among technicians and trades workers,” the report said.

Tech workers

According to job vacancy data, software and applications programmers and ICT business and systems analysts are two of the 10 most in-demand occupations, with 7,841 vacancies and 3,830 vacancies, respectively.

Of the 66 occupations with “strong future demand” identified as suffering shortages a national level, 19 were ICT-related roles, including developer programmer, software engineer, software tester, software and applications programmers and network analyst.

Nine of the 19 roles are new to the list of shortages. They are systems analyst, web developer, analyst programmer, database administrator, computer network and systems engineer, network administrator, network analyst, ICT quality assurance engineer and ICT systems test engineer.

There is also a national shortage of cyber security roles like penetration tester, cyber governance risk and compliance specialist, cybersecurity advice and assessment specialist, cyber security analyst, cyber security architect and cyber security operations coordinator.

The Northern Territory also suffers from a lack of ICT project managers, management consultants and systems administrators, in addition to the occupations with strong future demand facing national shortages.

A number of other occupations with moderate future demand are also impacted by shortages, including ICT business analyst (which was not in shortage in 2021), cyber security engineer and devops engineer.

Skills minister Brendan O’Connor said the report “reinforces the urgent need to tackle skills shortages”, pointing to the Jobs and Skills Summit and the Jobs and Skills Australia Bill before the Senate as some of the government’s recent steps.

Shadow minister for science and the digital economy Paul Fletcher said the list was further evidence of “significant skills shortage” facing the technology sector, which was “compounded” by the pandemic.

“For Australia’s technology sector to meet its growth potential, the skilled immigration pipeline needs to be opened,” he said, pointing to estimates Australia will need another 653,000 tech workers in the next eight years.

“Much of this gap can and should be met with workers trained and developed in Australia. But it will also require the government, in the words of the Tech Council, to ‘streamline skilled migration for high-salary, experienced technical roles with chronic shortages.”

The former Coalition government slashed the intake under the permanent migration scheme for high-skilled technologists known as global talent in 2022-23 by half ahead of the election in May, despite labour shortages.

The new Labor government pledged to increase the permanent migration rate by 35,000 to 195,000 at the Jobs and Skills Summit last month, but it is not clear if this will lead to any additional global talent visas.

Australian Computer Society chief executive Chris Vein said it is “not surprising to see two of the top ten occupations suffering shortages being IT-related roles” after years of calling out the rapid growth of the sector.

He said that addressing the shortages would take more than boosting short-term migration but noted that making more visa slots available would also be required, in addition to programs to upskill the workforce.

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