Australia’s digital economy is expected to grow significantly over the coming years, fuelled by new waves of technological innovation that will disrupt many of our traditional sectors.
In order to capitalise on and adapt to these changes, a diverse set of skills is now essential amongst Australian IT workers.
As a result, it is vital to retrain and up skill the existing IT workforce, as businesses make it a priority to hold more general skill sets in addition to core technical skills.
Addressing this proficiency shift will allow Australia to stay ahead of the curve, and to support an ever-growing technology-based economy.
This was one of the key findings from Australia’s Digital Pulse, a report by the ACS and Deloitte Access Economics, launched at the National Press Club in March.
Retaining local talent
The contribution of digital technologies to the Australian economy is forecast to grow to $139 billion in 2020, up from $79 billion in 2014, with demand for IT workers set to dramatically increase. However, IT graduates currently represent only one per cent of new IT workers needed each year.
The figures demonstrate that Australia can’t solely rely on University graduates and foreign workers to combat a predicted shortfall in digital skills – instead we must look at retraining workers already in the industry.
Skilling up the broader Australian workforce will ensure that there is an adequate supply of IT skills for the booming digital economy. We already know that digital skills and technology literacy are becoming increasingly important in today’s broader workforce, including for those workers not directly employed in IT roles.
In support of this, the report found that in 2015 there were around 628,000 IT workers in Australia, with 53 per cent of the workforce employed outside of IT-related industries – such as public administration, education and training, and financial services.
This is further reinforced by a recent OECD study, which found that around 2.5 million Australian workers are required to use IT regularly as part of their everyday jobs.
Managing employer demands
Whilst it is important that we ensure the Australian workforce is equipped with adequate IT skills, LinkedIn research highlighted in the report suggests that employers are increasingly demanding workers possess broader and more general skills.
LinkedIn’s analysis of the most popular 25 skills in Australia showed that 17 of the most sought-after are technology related, as more mainstream organisations integrate technology into their core business.
The data also showed that eight of the top 20 skills demanded by employers hiring new technology workers are broader than core technical – consisting of soft skills such as relationship management, customer service, strategic planning and contract negotiation.
This is encouraging as it means many employees in the wider workforce already have the necessary skills to contribute to a variety of IT-related jobs.
If we are to continue our run of economic strength, it is not going to be through resources, but rather through technology – and to do this it’s imperative we focus on nationwide training and development, to ensure that Australian workers are equipped with the skills to drive this growth and innovation.
We must invest in our workforce if we want to take advantage of the vast, global opportunities that an increasingly digital future has to offer our lucky country – and certainly if we want it to stay that way.
Andrew Johnson is the CEO of the ACS - Australia’s professional association for the IT sector