Jobs in technology are among the most productive in Australia, says the Tech Council of Australia (TCA), with productivity growing at four times the rate of the market sector in the decade to December 2021. They are also among the most well-paid, stable and flexible jobs in the economy.1
One in 16 working Australians work in technology jobs, and there are more software engineers and developers in Australia than solicitors, plumbers or hairdressers.1 A recent TCA report2, written in conjunction with Accenture, revealed that the technology sector is now Australia’s seventh biggest employer, following a decade of strong growth.
While those numbers are healthy, they still don’t meet the demands of our increasingly digitised world. Vacancy rates in tech are 60% higher than the national average and there are significant talent shortages, particularly in more experienced roles.1 Government and industry bodies agree that the sector needs to grow if we are to improve living standards, create economic growth, increase productivity and keep pace with global trends.
We know that the pandemic accelerated the uptake of technology and stimulated growth in remote work, online commerce, businesses’ digital presence and innovative delivery of public services such as health and education. The Productivity Commission says policy settings need to encourage the economy to adapt to the growing importance of digital technologies and significantly, through developing a skilled labour force.2
“Australia needs to keep pace with technological developments to underpin our future economic prosperity,” the report says.
The aim of the national Jobs + Skills Summit held in September was to find common ground on how Australia can build a bigger, better trained and more productive workforce. The government has set a target of creating 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030.3 To service those jobs, the TCA says Australia needs to employ an additional 653,000 tech workers – that represents an increase of 186,000 over business-as-usual approaches.
The drivers of tech talent shortage in Australia
The TCA and the Digital Skills Organisation have established the Digital Employment Forum, which brings together tech employers (including Commonwealth Bank) and educators to transform the way Australia attracts and trains tech workers.
The forum’s report shows that the most severe shortages are in technical occupations such as software programmers and computer network professionals. Meanwhile job ad data shows that tech occupations require more experience and high levels of qualifications compared to the national average.
It has identified five key barriers to tech talent growth:
- Australians’ lack awareness about what tech jobs exist, or how to get into them.
- Training products and pathways into tech jobs have not kept pace with industry needs.
- Women, older Australians, and regional Australians are under-represented.
- There is only a small talent pool of people with the skills and experience needed to work in experienced technical roles, and those roles have boomed.
- Australia lacks coordinated effort, analysis and planning for the tech workforce.
The technology skills of the future
CommBank’s Chief Information Officer for Technology, Brendan Hopper, says each of those barriers can be overcome with a concerted and coordinated approach from government, industry and employers.
He says the tech workforce of today and the future requires more depth and breadth in their skillset: “We need people who understand tech and can code their own software. Companies need to focus on a software-first approach.”
Tech talent also need to extend their skills to be able to oversee the whole process. “Tech companies have proven that an ability to oversee the entire end-to-end process is a much more efficient process,” says Hopper, adding that knowledge and efficiency is lost when one tech team passes off their portion of a project to the next team.
He says bringing the employees who are executing the technology work into closer contact with the entire chain will organically drive skill acquisition.
Attracting and retaining tech talent
Employers have a responsibility to regularly provide upskilling opportunities and have clearly defined technology career paths. Technology roles offer diversity of work types and flexibility in work practices.
Hopper says Australia has done a good job of training people in technology but often the talent moves overseas as they chase career opportunities. The challenge now is to “bring them back and convince them to stay”.
“Australia has incredible tech talent; we just don’t make the noise about it like they do in the US or Europe,” he says. “We’re not recognising the cultural importance of it. We need to celebrate what we’re doing and build that community. Culturally, we need young people to want to work in tech. We need to encourage diversity and showcase the value that people are providing to broader society. We want people to work in tech as much as they want to be a big sports star.”
The TAC identified this opportunity in its report: it found that the tech sector is not as proactive as say the financial or professional services sectors in turning successful students into successful employees.
Earlier this year, CommBank partnered with Monash University and RMIT to launch a new technology hub in Melbourne that will support more than 400 software developers, cloud engineers and cyber specialists. The aim is to help create jobs in Victoria’s expanding digital workforce economy.
“Establishing a tech hub in Melbourne puts us in a great position to tap into Victoria’s digital technology industry, which is not only internationally recognised, but incredibly robust and competitive thanks to support from the government and the education sector,” Hopper says.
“Melbourne itself is the home to Australia’s top 20 tech companies. There’s already such a vibrant digital community and well-established network of tech specialists that we want to tap into. And the new hub is not just place for our tech people to work but a space where highly skilled and passionate engineers, analysts and developers can thrive on a culture of problem solving, networking and collaboration.”
These skills and resources will help secure Australia’s future prosperity.
To learn more from leading industry experts about what’s important to business and the economy, head to CommBank Foresight™ – insights for future-facing businesses.
Our technology expert
Brendan Hopper is the Chief Information Officer for Technology at CommBank. He has spent the past decade building the bank’s cyber security and digital assurance processes and credentials, including education and protection. Brendan is also a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science and Engineering faculty at UNSW and sits on the Industry Advisory Board there. He is the co-founder of SECedu, a partnership between UNSW and CommBank that trains the next generation of cyber security professionals.