$10 billion worth of economic growth in the technology, media and communications industries hinges on up-skilling tens of thousands of Australian technology workers, according to new analysis.
A survey of over 1,000 Australians, across various age groups and employment levels by RMIT online and Deloitte Access Economics showed while many undertook training last year to meet new digital needs, the current pace is not matching the rapid transformation of the business environment.
RMIT Online’s analysis released today claims Australia needs 156,000 new technology workers by 2025 to ensure economic growth is not stymied by a shortage of skills.
“We’re simply not training people fast enough to create that many new tech workers.” Helen Souness, CEO at RMIT Online tells Which-50.
Souness says addressing the shortage should be a “national imperative” as Australia tries to recover from the impacts of the coronavirus.
Without addressing the digital skills gap Australia will miss out on an estimated $10 billion worth of growth in the technology, media and communications industries alone by 2025, according to the new report.
“[The pandemic] has really accelerated and underscored, I suppose, an existing problem of skill shortages,” Souness told Which-50. “
Long before the pandemic, there were growing calls to uplift Australian workers digital skills to drag the local sector back to a globally respectable level and in doing so add billions to the economy.
The latest research from RMIT shows there is an appetite from workers to upskill but limited access. And while the pandemic improved people’s soft skills it led to only modest improvements on average in hard skills like coding and data analysis.
Souness says the skills gap is a complex challenge and addressing it will take the involvement of stakeholders across industry, government and the education sector. But the survey revealed many employers can start right away by improving access to training.
“The survey showed that only half of the employees [surveyed] were accessing upskilling opportunities at work provided by their employer. That means half haven’t got access to training at work.
“And only another 21 per cent [of employees] had even subsidised opportunities,” Souness said.
“I think it’s really beholden on employers to think [about why] they spend $7 billion at the moment on recruitment and only four [billion] on training. Is that the right mix?”
The latest survey underscores the strategic value in upskilling, Souness says, for both the employer and employee. Over half of respondents said they prefered learning opportunities over a “fun” culture or free lunches.
“That’s really good news for the strategic investment in upskilling, because I think in the past a lot of employee engagement thinking … has been all that ‘fun’ stuff.
“And I just thought it was really encouraging that it’s really valued by employees, which hopefully helps make the business case for employers.”