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A recent study by RMIT and Deloitte Access Economics found that Australia will need 156,000 more digital workers by 2025, a figure that demonstrates the true scale of the skills gap. Businesses, government bodies and educators are all feeling the effects of the talent shortage, which is why there needs to be a collective effort to solve this issue. Prabal Chatterjee, Head of Human Resources – Australia and New Zealand at Tata Consultancy Services, explores the burning questions around the technology sector's talent opportunities.
Posted: May 2021
Q: There is a shortage of talent in the technology sector; why do you think this is so?
In countries like the USA, big brands like Google, Amazon and Tesla dominate the stock exchange and are widely referred to as employers of choice thanks to their global clout and innovative work. While Australia is home to many globally recognised technology-based brands, including Afterpay, Canva and Atlassian, these companies have long been overshadowed by legacy industries such as mining, banking and telecommunications. People aspire to work with brands within these sectors due to their perceived career security and importance. In contrast, while growing more rapidly than most, the technology industry doesn't appeal as the sector's career path, and progression isn't as clearly represented.
Q: How do you think Australia should address this shortage?
There is an educational element required if Australia wants to address this shortage. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred on the proliferation of technology in supporting day-to-day activities, but few people understand the processes and work that goes into making these solutions possible along with the skills that are required. Additionally, as industries embrace new and innovative technology in response to the digital revolution, employees must also re-train to ensure that they gain the best outcomes from the investment.
For example, the financial sector is in the midst of a complete digital revolution, creating dramatic changes for customers and businesses. It has created thousands of new career opportunities for technically qualified talent looking to get into financial services.
There's no one-size-fits-all job description for pursuing a career in technology, and this diversity needs to be highlighted and championed. From software development and app creation to cloud solutions and product design, the skills required are as varied as the sector's opportunities. More importantly, industry leaders need to take the time to educate potential and future talent about the role technology plays within their business.
Government and businesses need to work together to create a framework that drives conversations about the importance of STEM studies, career opportunities and industry insights and supporting the process of placing talent in suitable positions is critical to Australia's future.
Q: What impacts are you seeing for talent as a resource?
Business continuity during the pandemic has been heavily reliant on technology, reinforcing the importance of digital solutions. Working from home has made many businesses location-agnostic when it comes to their pool of talent. This breaking down of geographical barriers has encouraged many companies to broaden their talent pool to include candidates that previously would have been deemed too far away. Additionally, COVID-19 has confirmed to many businesses that they need talent that can support their digital needs, and these are skills that no longer sit only within the IT department.
Q: How do we create more opportunities for women in the technology sector?
There are successful and accomplished women throughout the global technology industry, many of which are based in Australia. Like many industries that men have traditionally dominated, businesses need to champion their existing female staff through better internal and public visibility, as well as make a commitment to continuing to build a diverse workforce. Moreover, creating an environment that welcomes women and works with them to meet their career aspirations can help source and retain talent.
Beyond the current workforce, encouraging girls in school to take up careers in STEM and ensuring they retain their interest is also critical. Providing the tools and resources for women of all ages to understand this sector's opportunities will pave the way for the most substantial talent pool.
Q: How does reskilling of employees factor into this conversation?
Reskilling resources in technologies and skills that are currently in demand because of the digital revolution has acquired critical significance. Corporates are looking to provide such reskilling opportunities in abundance to their existing employees, and even outside their organisations, to widen their prospective resource pool.
If an employee is interested in exploring new skills or a gap identified in their current competencies, a business can support it by implementing skill development initiatives. Offering technical, digital literacy programs to existing staff is a value-add exercise that serves both the employee and the employer. It can act as the initial phase of exploration into new skills, further developed through additional training as an internal program or through external education partnerships. Reskilling can also be a very effective retention strategy.