ACS urges diversity boost to address the Aussie labour shortage problem

Dr Nick Tate, President at ACS Australia

Australian technology employment numbers continue to boom, with over 1.2 million people expected to be working in the sector by 2027, according to the new ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2022 report released in Brisbane. Digital Pulse 2022 reveals technology jobs are paying better than equivalent industries and proposes ways the nation can address the chronic IT worker shortage, including boosting the sector’s diversity and building the skills pipeline.

What were the findings of the ACS’ research?

The report found the nation’s tech workforce grew by 8% over the previous year, with over 870,000 Australians now working in IT roles. By comparison, the workforce as a whole only grew 3.4% across all sectors. In the next five years the technology sector will employ over 1.2 million Australians, with the workforce having an average annual growth rate of 5.5%.

The report flagged the need for Australian businesses and government to do more to train workers and encourage greater diversity in the technology workforce. Women represent only 31% of the technology workers, compared to 48% across the Australian workforce.

Improving diversity in the tech workforce could increase the number of full-time equivalent roles by nearly 14,000 per year on average for the next 20 years. Realising the diversity dividend, however, will require businesses to crack down on discrimination in the workplace.

Analysis by Deloitte Access Economics found that those who experience discrimination in the workplace are twice as likely to expect to leave their current workplace within the next two years. 58% of IT workers report having experienced discrimination during their careers.

How can Australia address the skills shortfall?

Digital Pulse looked deeper into the diversity of the sector and found 0.66% of the workforce identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders, which is five times lower than the national population share of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (3.3%), while 45% of tech workers were born overseas. ACS recommends seven measures to address the skills shortfall:

  1. develop and promote workplace policies to encourage diverse technology talent
  2. provide school teachers with more resources to improve student digital literacy and increase awareness of technology career pathways
  3. greater coordination between agencies to develop skills in the technology workforce
  4. further encourage businesses to deepen digital skills in other occupations
  5. work to retain existing technology talent in Australia
  6. encourage employers to consider more diverse pathways into the technology sector
  7. boost government and industry investment in the technology sector.

What were the executives’ thoughts on the report?

Launching the report, Senator Nita Green, Senator for Queensland and Special Envoy for the Barrier Reef, said: “The Aussie technology workforce is less gender diverse with women only making up 31% of the workforce. As the report says, boosting the sector’s diversity, not just in gender, is a relatively quick and reliable way to start addressing the talent shortage.”

“This year, the share of women in tech increased by 1.86% to 31%, the highest level since the digital pulse report was launched in 2014. So it’s a start, but we do need to do better.”

ACS President Dr Nick Tate said: “This year’s Digital Pulse report is the eighth we have released and each has had the consistent message that we need to improve the nation’s digital skills pipeline. By 2027, Australia will need over 1.2 million IT workers to fulfil the nation’s tech needs. If we want Australia to lead in this space, we have a lot of work to do.”

“With the Federal Government’s Jobs and Skills Summit approaching, Digital Pulse makes a strong case for boosting technology training at school, vocational and tertiary levels.”

John O’Mahony, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics and co-author of the Digital Pulse series said: “Australia’s tech workforce growth has been astonishing – we will soon have one million tech workers. Individuals can earn, on average, an extra $11,000 every year in salary in tech occupations compared with other occupations. If we can boost diversity in the tech workforce it could be worth over $20bn to our economy over the next two decades.”

Commenting on the research report, ACS CEO Chris Vein said: “If we can build workplaces supporting diverse workforces and flexible working conditions, we can do a much better job of retaining current workers as well as attracting new workers. This year’s Digital Pulse report outlines the opportunities the technology sector offers to Australians. As we outlined in our election platform, technology is essential in keeping industry and the economy growing.”

The 2022 Digital Pulse can be found here.