Australia needs to improve education and training sectors to increase its ICT talent pool and improve the country’s international competitiveness, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
The organisation’s 2018 ACS Australia Digital Pulse report found that Australia is in the “middle of the pack” globally without any movement over the last five years, and could end up “in the passenger seat” and could have flow‐on impacts on productivity and living standards.
“Australia ranks 12th out of the 16 countries on business expenditure on research and development in ICT when research and development is examined as a share of a country’s overall gross domestic product,” Deloitte Access Economics partner Kathryn Matthews said in the report.
“Couple this with falling behind in the supply of ICT skills in the current workforce and on STEM performance in schools, we cannot afford to be complacent.”
She added that domestic graduates from ICT degrees are still below 5000 a year, and that the only way to reach workforce targets is by importing labour.
The existing workforce was also found to have diversity issues, with women comprising only 28 percent of ICT workers and that only 12 percent were over 55, compared with 45 percent and 15 percent across all professional industries on average.
“We need more ICT workers with skills in artificial intelligence, data science, cyber and blockchain, and filling these positions with migrants suggests a missed opportunity to provide rewarding employment for the next generation of Australian workers,” Matthews said.
The report also found that Australia is now exporting more ICT services than it imports, as the country’s tech-savvy workforce continues to grow.
Australia’s ICT workforce also grew 3.5 percent from 640,800 workers in 2016 to 663,100 in 2017, with demand forecast to grow up to an additional 100,000 workers by 2023.
“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,” ACS President Yohan Ramasundara said.
“If we want to be competitive in the world economy, we need to invigorate the education and training sectors to increase Australia’s ICT talent pool.”