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Australia Must Reskill for Digital Jobs

Tuesday, 15 Mar 2016

IA 

Can't just rely on graduates or foreign workers.

Australia can’t rely on university graduates and foreign workers to combat a predicted shortfall in digital skills, and should instead look at retraining workers already in the industry.

This is one of the main findings of the latest version of Australia’s Digital Pulse report by the ACS and Deloitte Access Economics, which will be unveiled this Wednesday.

Last year’s report sought a “multifaceted” approach to tackling an expected digital skills shortage by 2020.

The approach largely focused on making ICT and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers more attractive to new entrants, combating the industry’s perceived image problem.

A year on, "increasing the number of Australian students studying ICT-related subjects and courses at the primary, secondary, university and vocational levels of education” is still seen as important.

But this year’s Digital Pulse recognises a more immediate answer is required.

“While ICT degree graduates have recently picked up, they represent only one percent of the existing ICT workforce each year,” the report said.

“It is important that the Australian workforce is not wholly reliant on the pipeline of ICT students and graduates as the sole domestic source of ICT workers and skills to support the growing digital economy.”

The growth in demand for ICT skills is already evident. This year’s report estimates that Australia’s ICT workforce grew by 23,000 in the past year.

Most of this skills demand was satisfied by looking internationally. Australia took in a net 19,600 foreign workers (including 13,900 on 457 visas) over the period, suggesting as little as 3000 new ICT roles were filled domestically.

However, as with graduate numbers, foreign intake isn't necessarily seen as a desirable way to keep meeting jobs growth.

“Relying on workers from overseas can assist in addressing acute shortages of particular ICT skills in the short term,” the Digital Pulse said.

“However, this is not a suitable solution for sustaining Australia’s increasing demand for digital skills in the long-term future.”

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