There is no doubt that the Australian tech industry currently suffers from an extraordinary disconnect between the speed of innovation, the number of jobs created and the rate at which these roles are filled.
As an industry, we need to move away from the rhetoric that there is a lack of local people, or refer to the skills shortage as a government policy or communication issue, and start focusing on how the industry as a whole can effect change through his approach. recruitment and retraining programs.
Many industry leaders are using overseas recruiting as a panacea in an attempt to end the “blame game,” but this mindset is not sustainable as an industry. Instead, let’s broaden our lens of skills opportunities to embrace diversity and focus on retraining and upskilling Australians in and beyond technology. Together, let’s dare to do things differently, capitalizing on what Tech Council of Australia chief executive Kate Pounder describes as a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to make Australia a global tech powerhouse.”
Necessity, mother of mentality change
What happens when a technology company can’t meet the needs of a particular customer with the right skills or connect them with the right people? The customer will shop around to find a service provider or solution that does. As a CEO, it’s frustrating.
Today, the company, which has just lost customers, is faced with critical choices. Shrug your shoulders and say “Well, we just can’t do x” or “We need to be able to do y, but it’s obviously going to cost us more to achieve that result or develop that skill set” to continue to be viable. As the talent pool shrinks, the value of in-demand skills increases, which only makes those skills more exclusive. Less accessible. More expensive. Less diverse.
Companies need to look for more creative ways to upskill, retrain and transfer skills. It means training new and different kinds of people, both inside and outside of Big Tech; invite former employees back; and establish ways to attract those entering the tech industry for the first time.
A bright and exciting future
The new Labor government has made significant commitments in recognition of the technology sector’s role in Australia’s future economic vitality and to help alleviate the skills shortage crisis. These vows include a new $1 billion critical technology fund as part of a $15 billion national reconstruction fund, which promises to “generate billions in economic activity, provide secure jobs, flexible and high-paying Australians and making Australia the best place to start and grow a business.
This is already the case in Singapore, where the government has funded tech innovation to dramatically develop talent through payroll tax incentives, intern stipends, startup fundraising contributions, R&D and Moreover.
Similarly, we have a huge opportunity to fund skills development through vocational programs within the Australian university system to make students more employable and better qualified upon graduation, and to provide relief similar taxes for vocational training and retraining in technology.
Reversing ‘dismal’ Indigenous participation in technology
In New Zealand, only 4% of the IT workforce is occupied by Maori. In Australia, Indigenous engagement rates in technology are even more deplorable, despite the fact that Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Indigenous engagement specialist Dion Devow reports that Indigenous children are particularly well suited for STEM studies and careers, given that many of them grow up speaking multiple languages and have advanced problem-solving skills.
We talk a lot about reconciliation, but few companies are taking proactive steps to promote education and upskilling in Indigenous communities, to increase Indigenous participation in technology. We worked with the New Zealand government to retrain 11 local aboriginals last year, and it’s something we hope to continue to do – more on a local level in Australia too.
We need to do more to create recruitment channels in diverse communities, especially in regional and rural areas, to not only show that as an industry we endorse Indigenous representation and diversity in technology, but also to develop it.
The key to innovation in recruitment and technology accessibility is to think differently. If you keep fishing in the same pond, you will keep catching the same fish.