Industry lobby group the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) has signed a deal with top trade union group the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to work together to boost local tech jobs and improve digital skills.
The agreement between the ACTU and the Tech Council stemmed from Wednesday’s Digital and Tech roundtable hosted by the Minister of Industry and Science, Ed Husic. It aims to meet the government-backed target of 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030 from its current level of approximately 860,000.
Both sides will bring their ideas on how to achieve the target to the Albanian government’s Jobs and Skills Summit next week, as part of the Future Industries stream chaired by Husic.
His colleague, Federal Minister for Skills and Education Brendan O’Connor, said they were united in creating higher ambition and enhanced collaboration to create the jobs of the future.
“Australia is facing a skills shortage and we need to better address future skills demand and align taxpayers’ investment in areas that need it,” said O’Connor.
“A robust skills and training sector is critical to fostering a productive workforce – this will deliver a stronger economy and more affordable goods and services. We would like to see what proposals will be tabled at the summit next week to kick-start the economy and get wages moving.”
Government’s Strategy for the digital economy 2030 predicts that digitization will create 250,000 new jobs by 2025.
3 key ideas
The proposals are expected to include modern digital apprenticeships; reforms of skills, training and immigration systems for employers and workers in the technical sector; and a focus on bringing in more women and underrepresented groups in the technology sector.
Kate Pounder, CEO of TCA, said Wednesday’s roundtables made the two sides realize where they found common ground.
“We are entering into this agreement to make it public at the Jobs and Skills Summit. We would also like to thank the Minister of Industry and Science for his leadership in bringing unions and industry together,” she said.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said they wanted to establish a new, modern Australian Digital Apprenticeship to create more inclusive pathways to tech jobs for a wider range of Australians.
“Technology is advancing rapidly, economies and workforces around the world are changing – for Australia to continue investing in educating and educating our workers,” she said.
“Every major Australian industry is intertwined with the tech sector, and it’s important for workers to move forward, collaborate, be ambitious and get skills, training and wages moving at the upcoming Jobs Summit.”
The top trade union body also supports accelerated consideration of highly skilled, well-paid migration places where there is a clear skills shortage, and those roles can provide valuable coaching and expertise to the local workforce.
“These jobs are critical to every major industry in the Australian economy. They are among the fastest growing, highest paying, safest and most flexible jobs in Australia,” said McManus.
“They have half the gender pay gap compared to other high-paying industries. We have both an economic and moral duty to ensure that as many Australians as possible can enter them.”
Minister Ed Husic said that in addition to the future economic growth that technology can bring, it will also help keep local businesses competitive with foreign rivals.
“It’s great to see this kind of collaboration emerging from our industry roundtables last week ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit,” he said.
“I look forward to working with everyone in the tech sector to achieve our goals, including the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Information Industry Association, who have long championed the adoption of digital skills.”
Addressing the skills gap
The news of the deal came halfway through National Skills Week, amid expectations that around 87% of current jobs in every sector and industry in Australia now require digital literacy.
Patrick Kidd, CEO of the Digital Skills Organization, said digital skills are just as important as reading and writing.
His organization works with employers, trainers and learners to create digital skills-based pathways.
“Australia will need 60,000 new digital workers annually over the next five years,” he said.
“In addition, almost 90% of Australian workers will need digital skills during that timeframe.”
Demand for digital workers is expected to exceed the TCA’s target of 1.2 million. Australia is expected to need an additional 653,000 tech workers by the end of the decade.
Technology will become the country’s seventh largest employer, and according to research by Accenture, there are already more software engineers and developers in Australia than lawyers, plumbers or hairdressers.