It is estimated that Australia will need an additional 6.5 million newly-skilled and reskilled digital workers by 2025 to meet future demand for technology skills, a 79 per cent increase and it’s been suggested the country will have little chance of meeting this target without significant government intervention.
The projection comes from a report produced by AlphaBeta and commissioned by AWS Unlocking APAC’s Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skills Needs and Policy Approaches. It follows a September 2019 report from AlphaBeta, Australia’s Digital Opportunity commissioned by the Digi, an industry lobby advocating for the digital industry in Australia, which estimated the technology sector contributed about $122 billion to the Australian economy, 6.6 per cent of GDP and this contribution would grow to about $207 billion by 2030.
Dane Eldridge, chief executive and founder of Sydney based web and software development agency 4mation, in an InnovationAus podcast, said there was little chance of the forecast number of digital workers being achieved.
“There’s been a shortage of talent for many years now. Unless there’s some massive shift – I just don’t see that number coming close to being hit.”
Government intervention called for
Mr Eldridge suggested informal pathways were doing much, but not sufficient, to boost digital skills.
“There’s a lot of self-learning and on-the-job learning happening, and people transitioning into technology because the barriers aren’t high, provided you are passionate about it.
“There’s lots of online resources that can help you get started, but without some major government program or intervention, I just think we’re not going to be anywhere near that number.”
For many of the tech roles 4mation must fill, Mr Eldridge said people with informal training were often more valuable than university graduates.
“There’s much less correlation between being a great developer and having a tertiary qualification than in the past. We find great developers may or may not have a degree. I think most developers, when they come straight out of university, have the foundational thinking skills, which will set them up really well long-term, but not necessarily the practical, hands-on skills to make them useful.”
Overseas talent needed
To help address the skills shortage he called on the Government to ramp up initiatives to recruit overseas digital talent.
“Australia’s got a great reputation for being stable, having a great environment, for being COVID-safe. If we could import a whole bunch of tech talent, who would be very attracted to Australia, it would go a long way to building that skills base.”
He said 4mation, which was founded in 2001 and employs more than 80 designers, developers and user experience specialists, would not have achieved its growth without overseas talent.
“Our preference is always to hire local talent. It’s easier, it’s cheaper, there’s less hassle … But we need to go where the talent is available. The 457 visa has been super useful for us over the years in filling some of the critical tech roles that we couldn’t source locally.”
The in-demand skills
He said also that software development companies increasingly needed to have software developers with strong skills in particular specialisations to be competitive.
“It’s gone from a developer doing frontend and backend and databases and quality assurance. These days, if you’re trying to really compete and produce top-notch solutions, it’s more likely that you’ve got a cross-functional team with the best of each of those skill sets.”
Also, he said successful companies were increasingly involving their developers in all elements of a project. “Companies that do really well use developers as creative problem-solvers and get them involved in the problem-definition phase, and get them involved very early on, because they can bring unique perspectives to the design of a solution.
“That’s definitely the direction good companies are headed and using their developers in areas where they can really build a competitive advantage, where they can differentiate themselves.”
This article was produced as a partnership between InnovationAus and 4mation. If you would like to know more about 4mation and software development click here.