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ACS welcomes budget boost to skills and STEM, but more is needed

Canberra, Tuesday 2 April: ACS, the professional organisation for the technology industries, welcomed Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2019 Federal Budget, which has a focus on preparing Australia’s workforce for a future disrupted by technology, but believes that more investment should be allocated to fund skills development in Australia.

Tonight’s announcement of a $525.3 million skills package is a positive step towards upskilling Australian workers but will not adequately meet the needs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

In particular, the establishment of a National Skills Commission to focus retraining in the VET sector, the $62.4 million the expansion of second-chance learning programs and the $20.1 million over four years to better identify emerging skills needed in the Australian economy are sorely needed programs.

However, ACS believes that more needs to be done to upskill Australians in technology.

“Technology jobs are the jobs of the future,” said ACS President Yohan Ramasundara. “Many of the high paying jobs of the next decade are going to be technology jobs, and a large proportion of the funds allotted to skills have been targeted not at technology jobs, but at trade skills. Much more investment should be made to improve the technology skills of the Australian workforce.

“ACS’s Australia’s Digital Pulse 2018 revealed that Australia will need 100,000 new technology professionals over the next five years just to keep up with current demand. This skills package should help deliver those jobs, and we’re pleased to see that the government has been listening to the calls for workforce reform, but what is in this budget is inadequate for that purpose.”

ACS also commended the government on its program to improve STEM Gender Equality in Australia, with the government’s commitment of $3.4 million over four years to encourage more women and girls to engage in STEM learning and careers.

“It’s no secret that the technology industry has a significant gender imbalance,” said Mr Ramasundara. “Females make up 28% of the ICT workforce, compared to 45% of the workforce as a whole. Addressing that imbalance is a key issue that we have needed to address in Australia for some time. However, $850k per year won’t go too far in narrowing the gap.” 

Other programs highlighted in the Federal Budget also should prove positive for the Australian technology sector.

These include the government’s $19.5 million commitment to the continuation of the space program, the $67.1 million funding for the GovPass program, as well as $10 million provided over four years to the Office of the eSafety Commissioner to support the delivery of online safety education.

Mr Ramasundara praised the focus on cyber security for the Federal Election.

“The government’s commitment to the cyber uplift for federal government systems for the 2019 federal election is commendable,” said Mr Ramasundara. “It has been clear that foreign actors including governments are now more than happy to interfere in elections, and the government should be doing everything it can to ensure that Australian elections remain safe and fair.”

Further information

Troy Steer
ACS Director of Corporate Affairs and Public Policy
M – +61 417 173 740
E – [email protected] 

About ACS

ACS is the professional association for Australia's tech industries. More than 45,000 ACS members work in business, education, government and the community. ACS exists to create the environment and provide the opportunities for members and partners to succeed. ACS strives for ICT professionals to be recognised as drivers of innovation in our society, relevant across all sectors, and to promote the formulation of effective policies on ICT and related matters. Visit www.acs.org.au for more information.