The Australian ICT workforce grew 3.5 percent to 663,100 from 2016 to 2017 and the demand will keep growing, with the Australian economy forecast to require another 100,000 workers by 2023.
However, the latest Australia’s Digital Pulse report, prepared for the Australian Computer Society (ACS) by Deloitte Access Economics, found that Australia requires a further 100,000 workers to become an international leader in ICT, while demand for qualifications held by ICT workers is projected to increase by an average of 2.7 percent to 1.13 million qualifications by 2023.
Yohan Ramasundara, president of the ACS, said Australia must “invigorate” its education and training sectors to boost the ICT talent pool if it wants to be globally competitive.
“The demand for digital skills in our economy is exploding. The growth of artificial intelligence, automation and the internet of things is driving significant disruption across all industries, and highly trained ICT professionals are in more demand than ever before,” he said.
There are currently fewer than 5,000 graduates from Australian ICT degrees each year, with the pipeline leaky.
A Federal Government committee last year warned that there must be more investment in quality STEM education if Australia is to turn back the “decay curve” of STEM-capable students and grow its “nascent but promising” innovation ecosystem.
In a report into its Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training stated that the “quantity and quality” of Australia’s university STEM graduates is dependent on the quality of STEM education in schools, with the problem here being that the educators undertaking the teaching of STEM subjects are not themselves adequately qualified.
The road to becoming a global leader is a long one: examining 15 indicators of digital performance across the themes of consumers, businesses, ICT sector, and workforce skills, the report found Australia ranks seventh out of 16 developed economies.
While Australia is “ahead of the laggards”, the report stated, it is “lagging the leaders”, with “almost no relative improvement” over the past five years.
There is some good news, however, with the report finding Australia’s ICT services exports grew more than 60 percent over the past five years to reach $3.2 billion in 2016-17, and business ICT research and development increased by almost 50 percent to $6.6 billion in the five years to 2015-16.
The report provided four key policy recommendations to accelerate tech investment and digital business activity, including the reassessment of the tax landscape for digital investment overall, valuing and accounting for data as a company asset, using data as a tool for policy development, and the introduction of a more collaborative procurement process to enable more businesses to share in the government’s ICT spend.