Aussie firms need to create alternative pathways for 1.1 million future tech workers: report

Organisations across Australia will need to create new career pathways for 1.1 million people, including further emphasise on skills rather than degrees, to fully unlock the potential of its future technology workforce, a new report from the tech sector has argued.

The report, Break down the barriers, prepared by Accenture and commissioned by Microsoft, has found that Aussie corporations were “filtering out” potentially high-performing job candidates, with 90 per cent of job advertisements for STEM roles requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification.

The report called for Australian organisations to shift their approach and to hire from or to invest in alternative pathways that would help unlock a more diverse and representative future workforce in technology, setting a target to hire 20 per cent of early-career tech workers by 2030.

The pathways other than a bachelor’s degree included coursed-based learning (vocational education and training courses, micro-credentials and vendor courses), intensive pre-work courses (bootcamps), and work-integrated learning (apprenticeships, cadetships and traineeships).

According to the report’s estimates, this could help unlock an additional 31,000 workers from diverse backgrounds, including women, people living with a disability and First Nations people.

Peak body the Tech Council of Australia predicted the sector would require an additional 186,000 people under business-as-usual conditions to meet the Australian Government’s target of filling 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030.

The benefits of alternative pathways include speed to competency, tailored support, practical learning, flexible experience, industry connections, and lower costs to learn, which the report noted are especially relevant for under-represented groups.

Reaching this target, the report authors argued, would have a significant positive impact on business performance.

For instance, an Australian employer with 100 employees and $30 million in annual sales could generate $800,000 in savings every year from improved retention rates, increase worker productivity by 14 per cent, and grow annual revenue by $2.3 million by creating a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Other benefits from alternative pathways would also contribute to the broader Australian economy and would include the following:

  • $550 million in additional remuneration for new tech workers
  • 2,000 previously unemployed workers moving into tech roles
  • $250 million in additional tax revenue for government as Australians shift to more productive segments of the economy
  • five times more applicants for each advertised tech role, greatly expanding the talent pool
  • $35 million in savings on social services returned to government through a reduction in the unemployment rate.

“We have a real opportunity to make a difference. Gone are the days when candidates need a degree to be considered for a role,” said Tenielle Colussi, managing director of Talent and Organisation at Accenture Australia and one of the authors of the report.

“The alternative pathway for the future tech workforce would also help cater to the needs of the historically under-represented groups such as women, people with disability, and First Nations people.

“For instance, only one in three university students in STEM degrees are women. And STEM degrees only attract a participation rate of one in 20 for students with a disability, and one in 100 for those who identify as a First Nations person.

However, achieving the 20 per cent target would require collective action from businesses, Australia’s wider tech industry, government, education providers and not‑for‑profit organisations.

The report also points out three industry-level actions that will help increase the diversity of Australia’s tech talent pipeline:

  • launching an awareness campaign that showcases the careers of successful candidates from under-represented backgrounds, who have come through alternative pathways
  • creating a digital apprenticeship to make tech roles more accessible and attractive to under-represented groups
  • defining skills standards and pathways to reduce confusion around the required skills and simplify access to information.