Australia needs another 100,000 tech workers as the economy is hit with another wave of digital disruption

Recently Paul D’Arcy, a senior vice president at the world’s largest online jobs site,, told Business Insider that skilled workers were a relatively scarce resource.

He said information and communication technology (ICT) workers were becoming sought after because “in Australia, and in other industrialised nations, every company is now a tech company”.

That assertion is borne out in a report released yesterday by Deloitte Access Economics and the ACS, which is the Professional Association for Australia’s ICT Sector. The research, Australia’s Digital Pulse, highlights that “digital disruption continues to change the role of technology across the workforce in the future”.

It shows that “digital technologies is one of the fastest growing parts of Australia’s economy,” with an amazing growth rate over the past three years of more than 50%. That saw the dollar value of ICT increase from $50 billion in 2011 to $79 billion in 2013-14. That gives it a 5.1% share of GDP.

But the increased importance of ICT, the growth rate and the continued disruption to the economy from technology comes with a sting in the tail.

Deloitte Access Economics

While there are currently 600,000 people working in ICT, another 100,000 are going to be needed by 2020.

In particular, growth is expected to be strongest for technical, professional, management and operational occupations. This reflects the integration of ICT workers across a broad range of industries as digital disruption continues to change the role of technology across the workforce in the future. Consequently, demand for ICT skills and qualifications is also expected to increase in the future, with the strongest growth projected to be in postgraduate ICT qualifications.

That is great news for Australian job seekers.

But there is a problem.

Graduates with ICT qualifications have declined significantly since the early 2000s, and in recent years many Australian businesses have relied on workers from overseas and importing ICT skills to fill the gap. More than 10,000 temporary skilled migration (457) visas have been granted annually to ICT workers over recent years, and net arrivals of ICT workers were around 19,000 in 2013–14.

The question is, where will the 100,000 workers come from if not from Australians and Australian universities?

Part of the process is a change to the Australian school curriculum to include technologies as a “significant step in the process of teaching students to use computational thinking and information systems to define, design and implement digital solutions”.

That would fit with the Federal Government’s renewed focus on STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – education and training.

But in the end it’s down to businesses recognising they need these skills and giving employees the opportunities to undertake training and learn them. That’s filled the gap till now, with the report highlighting that “almost half (43%) of workers in ICT occupations studied courses other than ICT or engineering”.

Continuous education. It’s just part of the working life of employees in the 21st century.

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