Wednesday, 16 March 2016 15:43

Australia’s Digital Pulse – yes there is one! Featured

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Developing the digital workforce now is the key to driving future growth. It is business's turn to step up to the task.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) – the professional association for Australia’s ICT sector - has launched its 2016 “Australia’s Digital Pulse” report. Prepared by Deloitte Access Economics, it shows that while the digital economy will grow from 5% to 7% of GDP by 2020, new LinkedIn data highlights that a major skills shift is underway in our economy.

The 97-page report is an impressive outline of Australia’s digital economy, occupational analysis, workforce planning and directions, and future directions. It is worth a read if only to ensure you understand the big technology questions facing Australia.

Australia’s digital economy is expected to grow significantly over the coming years. This growth will be fuelled by new waves of technological developments. Existing technologies such as cloud services, social media and mobile devices will see growing uses in new industries, sectors and occupations. But a potentially larger source of future digital disruption will be the new technologies that are now emerging and their potential for commercial applications in the future – such as 3D printing in manufacturing, drones in the construction industry and driverless vehicles on mining sites.

Australia’s ICT workforce is expected to increase to around 695,000 ICT workers by 2020, representing an average annual growth rate of 2.0% (compared to 1.4% for the workforce as a whole).

The report concludes:

  • We need to develop ICT skills in the current workforce – future ICT education is absolutely imperative, but the need is more immediate.
  • Australian business needs to be the driving force for this, both now and in the future. Responding to digital disruption and technological change requires changes to a business’ products, operations, processes and infrastructure.
  • Providing appropriate training and learning opportunities for workers to develop the required ICT skills is a vital step.
  • There may be a role for Government to highlight the importance of ICT workforce development initiatives by prioritising programs that support ICT-related skills development.
  • Universities and other education providers can also assist by considering how their ICT course offerings could be used to meet better the needs of employers in the digital age.

In other words, business needs to be agile and faster to respond with a ‘do it now’ mentality. Business must take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by future digital disruption, and the potential gains to be had through the impact of technological developments on increasing productivity and innovation across the economy.

To do so, the critical issues is to train their workers in the ICT skills that will be required in the jobs of the future.

Other key findings include:

Tertiary graduates currently represent only 1% of the ICT workforce of 628,000. Satisfying the skills mix now being demanded by employers requires a far stronger focus on retraining and reskilling the existing workforce. This must include a focus on encouraging more women and mature age workers to pursue ICT careers.

For ICT Specialists, 6 out of the top 10 skills now sought after are non-technical skills such as project management, sales and customer service skills, and for 2.5 million Australians in non-ICT roles digital literacy skills are an increasingly important part of their job.

ACS President, Anthony Wong, said, “LinkedIn’s data highlights that a significant and rapid skills transformation is happening in our economy. Responding to this challenge will require governments, employers and the education and training sector to work collaboratively and, importantly, to reassess current approaches to both training and recruitment. A clear message from the Report is that our economy now needs ICT specialists with creativity, entrepreneurship and strategic business skills while non-ICT workers increasingly require a base level of digital competence.”

Managing Director for LinkedIn in Australia, New Zealand and Southeast Asia, Clifford Rosenberg, said, “We are already seeing widespread digital disruption across key Australian industries which is leading to skill shifts. It is imperative that businesses train their employees with both tech skills and soft skills required for the digital economy.

“Analysis of 25 hottest skills in Australia shows that 17 of the most sought-after are technology related as more mainstream businesses integrate technology into their core business. Our data also shows that eight of the top 20 skills demanded by employers hiring new technology workers are broader than core technical skills such as relationship management, customer service, strategic planning and contract negotiation.”

Deloitte Access Economics partner, John O’Mahony, said, “The contribution of digital technologies to Australia’s economy is forecast to grow by 75% to 2020 and, needless to say, there is going to be strong demand for a workforce equipped to support this growth, and the opportunities that will come with it.

“The biggest driver of digital growth will be the greater use of digital technologies such as cloud computing, data analytics, and other such developments in all aspects of business by people traditionally considered non-ICT workers. But our analysis also shows that there is significant demand for technical roles, including in areas that only emerged in recent years, such as cloud computing specialists and cyber security.”

Mr Wong continued, “The Report highlights how information technology is becoming embedded in all our products and services. It forecasts strong growth in the digital economy to $139 billion by 2020, an increase of 75% since 2014. ICT employment is also expected to grow at 2% annually to 695,000 by 2020. However, while this strong growth is welcome, the Report provides a timely reminder that as we seek to transition the Australian economy to one based more on services and knowledge and less on mining investment, we will only be able to achieve that if we urgently address the skills mix in our workforce. ICT skills and digital literacy have never been more important to our economic success.”

The Report notes that only 28% of the ICT workforce are women, compared to 43% across all professions, and only 11% are mature aged workers compared to 15% of the total workforce.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw [email protected]  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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