Tech industry bodies react to Jobs and Skills summit outcomes

Although Australia’s main associations for tech professionals have been supportive of the much expected boost for the digital and IT sector, deemed as one of the key sectors to build the future nation’s global competitiveness, the associations have stressed there is still more to do when it comes to the nation’s digital needs.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has welcomed the outcomes of the Jobs and Skills Summit, held in September, which included the increased allocation of 6,800 technology workers to the skilled migrant program, but said the industry “must look beyond skilled migration to meet the nation’s technology workforce needs” and immigration should be only viewed as a part of addressing the problem.

According to ACS, attracting more young Australians into the sector and creating opportunities to help workers acquire digital skills, while building the infrastructure to enable regional Australia to participate in the ‘connected global economy’ and diversity boost, should be of equal importance when addressing the issue.

Following this, ACS also stressed that greater diversity across the sector was needed, in particular with regards to bringing in more women who were an under-represented group in the tech workforce.

Although the Government’s set a target of creating 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030, the ACS estimates indicated the tech workforce would continue to grow strongly, with over 1.2 million workers employed by the sector by 2027.

“The technology sector will be one of the key employers delivering well-paid, secure jobs to Australians while also ensuring the nation’s industries are globally competitive and can meet today’s and tomorrow’s sustainability, environmental and economic challenges,” ACS chief executive, Chris Vein, said.

He also confirmed that the discussion around the future of the Australian workforce and the importance of boosting IT education, vocational training and diversity in the tech sector and across the wider workforce was needed, however Vein said that, according to him, the role of the sector was under-estimated during the summit.

“Sadly, the critical role the technology sector will play in delivering a prosperous and sustainable future for Australia seems to be under-estimated by the Government with only four of the 149 seats at the summit being allocated to industry representatives, despite being the nation’s seventh largest employer with over 870,000 Australians employed in the sector,” Vein stressed.

On the other hand, the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) described the summit outcomes as “concrete progress towards achieving the Australian Government and the TCA’s shared commitment to 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030”.

In August, TCA and the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) entered into an agreement on ‘a set of principles’ to support employment growth and skills development in the digital and technology fields across the economy and endorsed the Government’s commitment to increase tech jobs over the next few years.

Commenting further on the outcomes, TCA welcomed, in particular, the measures which included the Digital and Tech Skills Compact to deliver digital apprenticeships, migration changes, the Government’s endorsement of a free national virtual work experience program for secondary school students and steps increasing the economic participation of women.

Scott Farquhar, board member TCA, co-chief executive and co-founder Atlassian, said: “There’s a strong signal that tech adoption is crucial to Australia’s future. High paid, export jobs. This industry reduces income inequality, reduces gaps between rich and poor, provides jobs for people with disabilities and for those in regional Australia. The last two days have proven that others see the opportunity too.”

Following the summit, the Minister for Industry and Science, Ed Husic, identified “two areas of work on which to focus his portfolio” which included investments in skills development and widening the talent pipeline into science and technology to ensure the inclusion of a “a broad range of skills from across Australian population”.

“Straight out of the blocks, we have two pathways to develop. First, we need to deepen the work started on investing in skills development,” minister said.

“We’ve seen some great headway here with Atlassian announcing a commitment to a thousand additional jobs in research and development.

“For the tech sector, it is vital that it starts to look like modern Australia to unlock value across the economy.

The Federal Government has announced support for a Digital and Tech Skills compact between government, unions and technology employers agreed at the Jobs and Skills Summit.

The Jobs and Skills Summit agreement will also establish a working group with broad representation from industry, unions and the training system. The working group, to be established jointly by Minster Husic and Minister O’Connor, will develop proposals, including for the White Paper process established by the Summit.

“We have made it clear that the Jobs and Skills Summit is the just start of a process to re-equip Australians with the skills we need. This compact will help us get on with that work,” Minister Husic said.

As a part of improving access to jobs and training pathways for women, First Nations people, regional Australians and culturally and linguistically diverse people, the Government has also committed, as a direct outcome of the Jobs and Skills Summit, to creating 1,000 digital apprenticeships over four years to build capability in digital or technology related fields in the Australian Public Service (APC).