Report: 159,000 workers needed to close digital skills gap

Wednesday, 10 February, 2021

Report: 159,000 workers needed to close digital skills gap

Australia needs 156,000 new technology workers, with 87% of jobs now requiring digital skills, according to research from RMIT Online and Deloitte Access Economics. Addressing the digital skills shortage is imperative for Australia’s recovery from COVID-19, and failure to do so could jeopardise $10 billion growth in the technology, media and communications industries by 2025.

The research, which surveyed 1000 Australian working professionals and employers, revealed the importance of addressing Australia’s digital skills gap to keep pace with the rapid transformation of the business environment. While some Australians undertook training to meet digital needs, research suggests that won’t be enough to fill the gap, with 50,600 Australians reporting a lack of skills or education as their main difficulty in finding work as of August 2020.

Of those surveyed, 29% reported that their critical thinking skills improved over the course of the pandemic; however, this was unaccompanied by a similar rise in technical skills, like coding. The report also found that three out of four Australians want to learn about emerging technologies, such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, and that four in five Australian business leaders think that adopting new technologies is important in order to achieve business goals.

John O’Mahony, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, forecast that investing in the workforce will deliver strong returns, including economic growth that will continue for many years.

“The time to act on workforce development is now and, as the research shows, an imperative first step is ensuring Australia’s workforce is equipped with a basic level of digital literacy through effective skills development and training programs,” said O’Mahony.

The research found that one-third of respondents felt their job requirements had changed and one in four reported that they didn’t have the skills they needed to complete their day-to-day job. One-quarter of those surveyed said their data analysis skills are not at the level required or are outdated, compared with their employers’ requirements.

More than half of Australians have little to no understanding of coding, blockchain, AI or data visualisation, while 61% of respondents said their soft skills improved during the pandemic but not their digital skills. The report’s release comes as many businesses look to digitisation to recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Helen Souness, CEO of RMIT Online, said responding to Australia’s digital skills gap is imperative, as the nation’s economic recovery relies heavily on the availability of these skills to power business transformation.

“The findings of our research shows not only an appetite among Australians to enhance their digital skills through upskilling initiatives, but a dire need to do so in order to both bolster and modernise our economy so that we can keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape,” said Souness.

Souness added that it is encouraging to see the number of respondents who reported extending skills like leadership and critical thinking, as these skills are also critical to Australia’s business leaders.

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