Tech Council expands, calls on major parties to back tech jobs pledge


Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The Technology Council of Australia has called on both major political parties to back its plan to deliver one million tech jobs by 2025 as the new industry group welcomes 35 new members.

The Tech Council of Australia had 25 foundational members when it launched in August, led by inaugural chief executive and former Accenture managing director Kate Pounder and chaired by Tesla’s Robyn Denholm.

The council has now signed on its 60th member, with 35 companies coming on board in the last two months. Its new members include local tech giants such as WiseTech and Seek, startups like Airwallex, Envato and GetCapital, and large multinationals such as Accenture.

Kate Pounder
Technology Council of Australia CEO Kate Pounder

Ms Pounder said it’s important that the organisation features members of all different sizes from across the industry.

“The exciting thing is the level of support right across the sector. We have major multinational players, established companies and a hugely exciting cohort of new companies,” Ms Pounder told InnovationAus.

“To see that volume of talent and excitement getting behind the roadmap, it’s pretty incredible. It’s a good group of people to trust with this, especially because of the number of jobs they’re already creating.”

When it launched, the Tech Council flagged its three goals for the local sector: to employ 1 million people in tech-related jobs by 2025 and 1.2 million people by 2030, to contribute $250 billion to Australia’s GDP from tech-related activity by 2030 and to make Australia the best place to start and scale a company.

The organisation has now unveiled a roadmap to achieving these goals, with a number of policies and initiatives it is pushing governments and industry to adopt to get there. The roadmap also includes jobs research by Accenture, a new member of the Tech Council.

“This growth won’t happen entirely organically, and that’s why we think there’s value as an industry in setting some goals for what we believe we can achieve, the jobs and growth we can generate,” Ms Pounder said.

First and foremost, the council is pushing for both the federal government and opposition to back the 1 million tech jobs goal, and to begin working towards that urgently.

“What we’d like is for both parties to officially endorse those goals, to make them shared national goals. The last year has shown the power of the plan, the power in setting targets and we’d like to emulate that model with the tech sector to have shared national goals for this,” Ms Pounder said.

“That’s important because we did research to underpin the roadmap and set those goals, and it underscores that the single biggest challenge facing the industry is finding workers to fill the enormous number of jobs we’re creating.”

Both major parties have already been briefed on the roadmap, Ms Pounder said, with discussions to continue in the coming weeks.

“We briefed them all in advance and had good and positive feedback. Now we’ll be sitting down over the next month or so with some key people and looking more concretely on how we can work together to make this happen,” she said.

Ms Pounder said this is the biggest roadblock in achieving that goal, with existing skills shortages exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Australia’s closed international border.

“Labour shortages are the single biggest pain point for the industry. We calculate that pressure will only increase, just because of the velocity of job creation, there has to be a shift in the way we get people into the sector. We can’t transition an additional 60,000 people into jobs without a coordinated planned model, with government, industry and education providers working together,” she said.

To hit its 1 million jobs by 2025 goal, the Tech Council wants an additional 286,000 workers in the sector in the next three years. The organisation will place reskilling and upskilling at the centre of the plan to do this, with its research in finding that 146,000 Australians will need to transition into the tech sector in the coming years.

There also needs to be a focus on training young Australians, the Tech Council’s roadmap said, with 12,000 students to enter the sector on top of the 86,000 workers and 56,000 students already predicted to do so.

There also needs to be a substantial increase in investment and funding in the sector, according to the roadmap, with more effort needed to attract and retain large tech firms in the country. The roadmap includes efforts to make the internal case within large, global multinationals to attract more high-value activity and investment.

The Tech Council is also calling on governments to address early-stage company funding gaps and to make it easier for Australian and foreign investors to chip into startups and scale-ups.

The final plank of the roadmap is to make Australia a “certain, attractive and low-risk place to invest and innovate”, with a focus on tech-friendly regulation.

“We need a regulatory environment that is proportionate and predictable for investors, innovators and consumers, interoperable with other jurisdictions, and that consistently follows a set of best practice regulatory principles,” the roadmap said.

“Australia’s stable government, strong economy and track record of early consumer adoption of tech makes us an ideal market to lead on a sensible approach to the regulation of emerging products, services and industries, particularly in a period of geopolitical unrest globally.”

Governments should also look to makes its regulation with a bias to innovation and growth, and encourage the safe and early introduction of new products and services in Australia, the Tech Council urged.

The council will run a series of roundtables in December around the country with governments, industries and its members, and continue consultations across the next six months.

“There’s already a lot of momentum, but what we’re lacking is a model where companies across sectors can sit down together to plan a strategy. There’s value in working together to agree on the employment needs versus the skills needs,” Ms Pounder said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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