Queensland’s AI skills drought

James Riley
Editorial Director

A skills shortage in the rapidly emerging area of artificial intelligence (AI) in Queensland is putting a drag on the state’s innovation drive, according to global job site Indeed.

“What we’ve seen in Queensland over the past couple of years is a much greater emphasis on technology and AI skills than some other states in Australia,” Indeed’s Asia-Pacific economist Callam Pickering told InnovationAus.com.

“What’s happened is there’s been a massive surge in jobs looking for people who have AI-related skills, such as data scientists, research engineers, software developers, and computer programmers,” he said.

Callam Pickering: Skills shortage is a brake on Queensland innovation industries

“Unfortunately for Queensland, the search in jobs hasn’t been met by a match in increase in the number of candidates looking in those jobs.”

The latest results reveal the difference of Queensland AI-related jobs that are posted in comparison to the number of job seekers interested in them, as measured by clicks, was eight to one in 2017.

According to Indeed, this mismatch has deteriorated since early 2016 during a period that has also seen an almost seven-fold spike in Queensland AI-related job posts.

Indeed research also revealed about 25 per cent of AI-related job searches in Australia originate from overseas.

While the research does not deep dive to understand whether these clicks lead to successful job applications, Mr Pickering said the clicks are proxy indicators that foreign workers have an interest in applying for these jobs.

Mr Pickering suggested in order for companies in Queensland to feed the demand, they may need to start looking overseas and interstate.

“When we see the AI sector grow rapidly, it’d be very difficult for the domestic workforce to respond to that because it takes time to accumulate those skills,” he said.

“Think about it in terms of university where there is going to be a lot of tech grads that come out of the next decade, but it takes three or four years before students can respond to the changing demands of the workforce.”

“States such as Queensland would need look to Victoria and NSW, but also overseas as well, where many countries do have more developed AI industries and where they have more workers available that perhaps can come to Australia to speed along that process.”

Mr Pickering said based on observations of the tech sector, Queensland’s lifestyle does attract a “fair amount” of people already from the likes of Sydney and Melbourne.

That does not mean bringing people from overseas to fill these roles would be an easy process, especially since reforms were made to the 457 visa, even though the technology sector, after hospitality, significantly relies on 457 visas.

When the reforms were announced, Mr Pickering said there was a noticeable decline in foreign interest in Australian jobs as many were discouraged by the changes to seek work in Australia.

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