Australia’s technology workforce grew by 4.3% – 33,400 jobs to 805,525 – and is set to add around 300,000 more jobs over the next five years according to the 2021 edition of the ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse report.
That growth in tech jobs, to 1.1 million, is set to outstrip the nation’s broader labour growth to 2026 by a factor of four, the report, prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, finds. The rise of tech workers will be led by sectors experiencing rapid digitisation including finance, utilities, construction and retail.
Most importantly, younger Australians are recognising the value of digital skills and IT is now the fastest growing education field for domestic enrolments, but the ACS Digital Pulse report wats that based on current trends, they’ll still be a demand gap for tech workers, with 60,000 needed annually, while the tertiary sector will supply 7,000 domestic IT degree graduates a year.
The top software programming skills demanded by employers include SQL (requested in 14% of job postings), Java (10%) and DevOps (9%).
The Digital Pulse report argues that the future of the technology workforce will substantially rely on both reskilling from other industries, and restarting migration to meet Australia’s ICT needs.
The healthcare and education sectors had the largest growth in both overall employment and in technology occupations in 2020, together creating over 3000 technology roles. While Covid-19 drove some of that growth, it was a double-edged sword, with the risk of being infected by the virus necessitating a shift to online modes of work where possible.
One surprise in the Deloitte report for ACS was that while the local mining and agriculture industries had employment growth, the number of technology workers dropped by 200 and 400 workers respectively compared to the previous year.
The Digital Pulse report warns that this drop in technology workers during the crisis may represent a lost opportunity for these industries and runs contrary to the view that the pandemic is accelerating digital transformation.
Deloitte Access Economics partner John O’Mahony argues that digital technology saved Australia from the worst consequences of the Covid-19 recession.
“And promises to be a major opportunity to strengthen the economy and create jobs as we move into the recovery phase,” he said.
And getting women into tech is also vital for economic growth, the ACS report says, or a lack of female representation could cost the economy $11 billion over the next 20 years. A push towards gender parity would also boost employment by 5,000 new workers a year over two decades.
ACS President Dr Ian Oppermann said the projections in the 2021 Digital Pulse report illustrate the importance of the ICT secto to business, government and society.
“This was clearly shown during the Covid-19 lockdowns,” he said.
“As emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and smart cities become commonplace, the demand for suitably skilled workers will continue to grow. We must start working today to meet the digital skill needs of tomorrow.”
ACS CEO Rupert Grayston said the 2021 Digital Pulse Report lays out a comprehensive picture of Australia’s ICT industry and the opportunities we have over the next five years.
“In key growth areas, such as Artificial Intelligence, it’s estimated that Australia will require an AI specialist workforce of between 32,000 and 161,000,” he said.
“If the Government wants to meet its new target of under 5% unemployment, reskilling and upskilling the workforce for technology roles is a vital part of the solution.”
“We hope all sectors of industry, education and government will find this year’s report a vital roadmap for building Australia’s post-COVID economy.”
The 2021 report identifies five areas where Australia could address its ICT weaknesses:
- Promote ICT education
- Deepen digital skills across industries
- Boost female participation in ICT
- Re-energise digital transformation programs
- Identify IT contractors’ capabilities
The 2021 ACS Digital Pulse Report is available for free from the ACS website here.