Industry lobby group the Tech Council of Australia (TCA) has stuck a deal with peak union group the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to work together on ramping up local tech jobs and improve digital skills.
The agreement between the ACTU and Tech Council came out of Wednesday’s Digital and Tech roundtable organised by Industry and Science minister Ed Husic. It is focused on achieved the government-backed goal of 1.2 million tech jobs by 2030 from the current level of around 860,000.
Both sides will take their ideas on reaching the target to the Albanese government’s Jobs and Skills Summit next week, as part of the Future Industries stream chaired by Husic.
His colleague, federal Skills and Training minister Brendan O’Connor, said they were united in creating higher ambition and improved cooperation to create the jobs of the future.
“Australia is facing a skills shortage crisis and we need to better respond to future skills demand and better match taxpayers’ investment in areas of need,” O’Connor said.
“A robust skills and training sector is critical to driving a productive workforce – this will deliver a stronger economy and more affordable goods and services. We’re keen to see what proposals will be brought to the table at the summit next week to kick start the economy and get wages moving.”
The government’s Digital Economy Strategy 2030 predicts that 250,000 new jobs will be created by 2025 due to digitalisation.
3 key ideas
The proposals are expected to include modern digital apprenticeships; reforms to the skills, training and immigration systems to benefit employers and workers in the tech sector; and a focus on bringing in more women and under-represented groups into the tech sector.
TCA CEO Kate Pounder said Wednesday’s roundtable made the two sides realise where they found common ground.
“We are entering into this agreement to put that on the public record going into the Jobs and Skills Summit. We also want to thank the Minister for Industry and Science for his leadership in bringing unions and industry together,” she said.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus said they wanted to establish of a new, modern Australian Digital Apprenticeship to create more inclusive pathways into tech jobs for a broader range of Australians.
“Technology is rapidly advancing, economies and workforces across the world are changing – for Australia to keep up its critical that we invest in skilling and training our workers,” she said.
“Every major Australian industry is entwined with the tech sector, and it’s important that for workers to get ahead we work together, are ambitious, and get skills, training and wages moving at the upcoming Jobs Summit.”
The peak union body is also backing expedited consideration of highly skilled, highly paid skilled migration places where there are clear skills shortages, 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 amongst the fastest-growing, best-paid, most secure, and most flexible jobs in Australia,” McManus said.
“They have half the gender pay gap of other high-paying industries. We have both an economic and moral imperative to ensure that as many Australians as possible can enter them.”
Minister Ed Husic said that alongside the future economic growth tech can deliver, it will also help keep local businesses competitive against overseas rivals.
“It’s tremendous to see this sort of collaboration coming out of our industry roundtables last week ahead of the Jobs and Skills Summit,” he said.
“I look forward to working with all those in the tech sector to reach our goals, including the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Information Industry Association, which have long championed the adoption of digital skills.”
Addressing the skills gap
News of the agreement came in the middle of National Skills Week, amid an expectation that around 87% of today’s jobs across every sector and industry in Australia now require digital literacy.
The Digital Skills Organisation CEO Patrick Kidd said digital skills are as important as reading and writing.
His organisation works in collaboration with employers, trainers and learners to create digital skill-based pathways.
“Australia has an annual requirement of 60,000 new digital workers over the next five years,” he said.
“Further, in that time span, almost 90% of Australian workers will need digital skills.”
Demand for digital workers is expected to exceed the 1.2 million target set by the TCA. Australia is expected to need an additional 653,000 tech workers by the end of the decade.
Technology is set to become the nation’s seventh largest employer, and already there are more software engineers and developers in Australia than solicitors, plumbers, or hairdressers according to research by Accenture.