Budget 2019: Skills in the spotlight

By Jonathan Nally
Wednesday, 03 April, 2019

Budget 2019: Skills in the spotlight

If there is one thing upon which everyone in the digital world can agree, it is that Australia is facing a substantial and worrying shortfall in the number of skilled ICT workers, from cybersecurity to analytics to digital design.

Those hoping for good news on the skills front in Tuesday’s federal government Budget will instead probably have mixed feelings.

While industry has welcomed efforts such as the government’s $525.3 million ‘Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow’ package — which will see the development of training packages across a range of skills, particularly in the ICT and cybersecurity sectors — it is clear that concerns remain.

Chris Gibbs, Acquia’s General Manager Asia Pacific and Japan, said that “governments increasingly need to take a long-term look at how their investment will create a highly talented, educated, knowledgeable workforce for competing in the global economy”.

“Indeed, organisational structures, departmental interactions, workflow and delivery channels are all being reviewed in businesses of all sizes. Many will also need to be re-engineered or replaced. Streamlining or automating processes will achieve nothing,” he added.

“The question from this Budget is whether government’s approach to education and investment in digital skills creation will support the rise of dozens of Australian global companies in the 2020s and beyond.”

Michael Warnock, Australia Country Manager for Aura Information Security, added that it is “encouraging to see more focus on cybersecurity education and skills development. What we need is investments in both specialist cyber skills and broader awareness programs.”

Phil Kernick, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer at CQR Consulting agrees.

“The budget focusing on skills and awareness programs is a positive move, but we would like to see more support for local cybersecurity businesses. Companies like ours are at the coalface of cyber awareness and solutions and it is important for the government to incubate and support the local technology and services industry,” he said.

“A healthy Australian cybersecurity industry will help attract the best talent to the profession and carve out a new export potential.”

Kernick pointed out that an emphasis on STEM education system “is great news” and that over time “this will definitely show why analytics is important”.

“It would be great to see the government promote analytics as a discipline in itself — the economic benefits are waiting to be discovered,” he said.

Sharryn Napier is Vice President & Regional Director A/NZ at Qlik and an AIIA National Board Director. She pointed out that right now, “Australia needs an extra 200,000 technology workers to become a world leader in the digital economy.

“The government’s $62 million commitment to improving digital skills — such as data literacy — and its $9 billion to science, research and technology are sure ways of protecting our economy and driving growth,” she said.

Napier said that without these skills, Australia’s economy and it competitiveness on the world stage will suffer.

“Without the right skills in place, the [government’s] commitment to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years could be mistaken as a case of the Emperor’s new clothes.

According Sam Allert, CEO of Reckon Group, the introduction of the pilot Global Talent Scheme last year is “definitely a welcome initiative for the tech industry”.

“However, more can be done to make Australia a more attractive and competitive market for overseas talent,” he said. “We had hoped for some discussions around skilled migration policies in the Budget, especially with the current and very real shortage of tech-focused skills in Australia.

“It would be ideal if the Global Talent Scheme was extended beyond July 2019, and also have its minimum income requirement lowered. This will enable SMEs that do not have the same level of resources as large enterprises to have a fair chance at securing and importing in-demand tech skills.”

Allert says that small businesses need more helping “to enable them to stay ahead of the curve”.

“This is reflected in our pre-Budget survey of Australian small businesses, which found that 83% of respondents want the government to provide more subsidies for skills and training,” he said.

Australia’s young jobseekers should not be forgotten, added Rafael Moyano, Managing Director of Modis Australia (part of The Adecco Group).

“Despite creating almost one million jobs in the past five years or so, youth unemployment in Australia shows no signs of abating,” he said.

“We are pleased to see a $525.3 million funding boost for vocational education and training, as well as apprenticeships, as this will certainly help alleviate and address current skills shortage and create more opportunities for young people.

“With Australia experiencing a skills gap across many industries, the National Skills Commission is a step in the right direction to fostering a closer connection between industry demands and skills development. The introduction of the regional Training Hubs is also a promising initiative.

“Ultimately, public and private sector organisations need to work more closely together to support young Australians and better prepare them for the real world,” he added.

Moyano said he and his colleagues are “pleased to see the introduction of Skill Organisations. We hope that this development of training packages for high demand skills will help in fostering a more needs based approach to skills development, particularly for disadvantaged job seekers and those starting their careers.

“This is a welcome announcement, ensuring that students have a wide range of employment opportunities available, regardless of their location, access to training or advantage.”

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/nd3000

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