Digital skills shortage should sound warning bell

Digital skills shortage should sound warning bell

Photo: Digital Skills Forum chair Victoria MacLennan

 

A major report released today shows that New Zealand has a significant and growing digital skills shortage, primarily due to the speed and scale of the increase in demand for tech skills.

The report, commissioned by the New Zealand Digital Skills Forum, should sound a warning bell to industry, government and the education sector, the Forum’s chair Victoria MacLennan says.

More than 120,000 people were employed in the tech sector last year and about 14,000 new jobs were created. However, only 5,090 tech students graduated in 2015, and 5,500 tech visas were granted in same period, demonstrating a shortfall.

At the same time, New Zealand is facing an 11 per cent annual increase in demand for software programmer jobs, the report says. We also face a diversity challenge – in 2016, 36 per cent of tech students were female and only eight per cent were Māori

“The growing skills shortage in New Zealand’s IT industry and broader economy is very real. Industry, government, and the education sector need to continue working closely together to accelerate plans and activities to address it, otherwise the future prosperity of New Zealand will suffer greatly,” MacLennan says.

“However, it’s important to note the digital skills challenges our economy faces are not new and are certainly not limited to New Zealand.

“This report represents a great opportunity. Technology is such an important part of day-to-day life for all New Zealanders, meaning that just about everyone has a stake in our success as we respond to the challenges of our changing digital world.

“We need to continue working together to help nurture and develop local talent, and at the same time make sure that we fill any gaps from the best talent we can find worldwide. If we do this well then we have the opportunity to make New Zealand a technology powerhouse on the world stage.

“The findings in this report show that the supply of people with advanced digital skills doesn’t meet demand and this gap is growing. Through the Digital Skills Forum, a collaborative group of leading tech industry and government agencies, we’re working together to address digital skills shortages. But more must be done.

“There has never been a better time than now for action. Our school education sector has this year been reformed to give every Kiwi child a digital education. Through targeted reviews and industry recognition, our tertiary sector is better positioned than ever before to deliver the quality graduates needed. There are also more alternative pathways into digital roles than ever before.

“As a country, we must help younger New Zealanders discover a prosperous future working in the technology roles where the median salary is $82,000, almost twice the average median salary.

“Together, we need to remove barriers for our graduates finding their first job, make it easier for those seeking a career change, and improve the gender and cultural diversity in digital roles. None of us can do this on our own.

“As a result of this report, we now have tangible and concrete data on the size, scale and nature of the digital skills shortage in our sector and across the New Zealand economy. This report identifies both a challenge and a massive opportunity, but it will take all of us to realise it.

The New Zealand Digital Skills Forum includes NZRise, NZTech and IT Professionals NZ from the tech sector, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Education, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Tertiary Education Commission from government. 

 

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