The Australian tech industry is trying to upskill the workforce as it reckons with a labour shortage – Business Insider Australia

The Australian tech industry is trying to upskill the workforce as it reckons with a labour shortage – Business Insider Australia

  • Amazon’s re/Start initiative was one of the earliest tech training initiatives to arrive in Australia and has a 90% graduate placement rate with employers like Accenture, NAB and Tafe NSW among.
  • One year in, Skill Finder is another and has attracted widespread support from industry leaders like Canva and Atlassian.
  • Other firms are trying capitalise on the labour shortage as an emerging market, offering targeted upskilling programs to various government agencies and corporations.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

As the Australian labour market struggles with a crippling tech worker shortage, the industry is trying to plug the gaping hole with training initiatives of their own.

Just last week, some of Australia’s biggest tech startups told the market that they were struggling to fill specialist tech roles. 

Culture AMP, the workplace survey startup valued at $2.05 billion, said it has some 100 roles to fill, while Employment Hero, a HR tech startup, said it had 50 jobs going. 

Legacy businesses like Telstra, meanwhile, are even worse off, as they try to fill 1,000 tech roles with a fickle talent pool, many of whom are intent on heading to more “future” focused tech roles. 

Australia’s tech worker shortage is an issue Amazon was one of the earliest to try and tend to in the Australian market with the launch of its AWS re/Start program. 

Since its Australian arrival in 2020, Amazon’s AWS told Business Insider Australia has so far seen surging course completions, adding to the 200,000 graduates certified by the firm’s upskilling efforts.

At a global level — AWS wasn’t able to provide Australia-specific figures — 90% of the program’s graduates went on to land tech-focused roles, with the likes of Accenture and Deloitte, NAB, Westpac, and Tafe NSW among their employers. 

Andrew Sklar, leader of AWS training and certification, said the Australian labour market has responded well to the initiative, where some businesses are now being offered up talent from a broader range of “non-traditional backgrounds”. 

“In Australia and New Zealand, we started with one cohort in Sydney in 2020, and in the last year we have expanded with cohorts in Adelaide, Melbourne, Auckland, and Christchurch,” Sklar said. 

“Globally, we’ve tripled the scale of the program this year, and we will continue to invest in scaling the program next year.”

According to the findings of recent research from Deloitte Access Economics, pandemic-induced border closures shut the door on 30% of the tech skilled temporary migrants expected to arrive in Australia through the 2019-20 financial year, compared to the year before. 

As a result, the firm estimates that Australia will need to upskill an extra 200,000 tech workers over the next few years. 

Research from AlphaBeta released earlier in the year put the shortage at closer to 6.5 million “newly-skilled” and “reskilled” digital workers by 2025 in order to meet future demand. 

As Amazon works to scale its training initiatives, others are emerging, too. One year after launch, Adobe’s Skill Finder initiative has seen more than 75,000 course completions on various topics including cloud computing, data analysis, security and UX, among others.

Like Amazon’s re/Start initiative, Skill Finder — which pocketed a $2.7 million grant from the federal government to expand on its offering and reach — has also managed to secure the green light from local industry leaders. In part, because they played a role in its design.

Among its backers are Canva, which in September scored a $55 billion valuation, and Microsoft; along with leading software providers MYOB, IBM, and SAP. 

Atlassian’s head of global policy and regulatory affairs, David Masters, and Accenture CEO Peter Burns, each said the program has helped to fill a gap stretched rapidly by the onset of the pandemic.

“Demand for innovation and technology skills are at an all-time high,” Burns said. “Accenture is proud to be involved in initiatives [like] Skill Finder which ensure all Australians have the ability to upskill in areas such as cloud, security, intelligent operations and automation.”

Jane Hume, minister for superannuation, financial services and the digital economy, lauded her government’s investment, too. She said that other programs like it are likely to play a crucial role in getting “around 60%” of the Australian workforce retrained to meet tech demand.

And Australian tech companies could soon see a flood of them. While the industry’s leading educational initiatives have so far been made available to the public, other companies are spending millions of dollars on inward-facing training initiatives that have the same industry-wide recognition, and are looking to capitalise on the tech worker shortage as an emerging market.

Among them is Ernst & Young’s “Skills Foundry”, which promises to focus not just on meeting current demand, but that of the “future workforce” as well. Adam Canwell, global lead of the firm’s leadership services, told Business Insider Australia that the program has seen major interest from government agencies and various other corners of the market.

He said what most employers are now realising is that they can’t simply “buy their way out of” the tech worker shortage. Instead, they have to train their way out of it. The firm is now trying to cater to what has become a bloated global appetite for doing so, in a way universities can’t.

“What we’re looking to do is define the big building blocks of future capability — whether that’s data, UX design — and then create a curriculum which is kind of at the next level of detail,” Canwell said. 

“So under every significant capability that we’re trying to invest in, we create badges which are attached to specific skills, which are then externally accredited. So if it’s a technology platform [course], we actually get accreditation with their technology provider.”

He said, in the long run, the program could see a staff member at the firm — or any number of its clients taking part in the initiative — aggregate their badges to form a very real MBA thanks to the firm’s partnership with Hult Business School in the US. 

“What we’re trying to say is for every hour that you invest in upskilling, it will help you get an external accreditation for that,” Canwell said. “So that is valid for you both as a really important person to us, but also in terms of enhancing your value on the marketplace.”

About the Author

John Buckley is a Senior Reporter at Business Insider Australia.

He has bylines in The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Saturday Paper, and VICE, among others. His reporting covers politics, finance, the economy, technology and the ways each of them intersect with culture.

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