Release type: Speech


Address at the launch of the Australian Computer Society’s Guide to ICT Professions report, Melbourne.


The Hon Brendan O'Connor MP
Minister for Skills and Training

It is a pleasure to join you for the launch of your new ‘ACS Guide to ICT Professions’ report.

This guide has provided some valuable insights into digital and innovation skills in this country, and the benefits the ICT sector brings to our economy.

This guide is particularly valuable for students looking for a career in technology, and established professionals who want to enhance their skills, in the way it outlines industry demand and the opportunities available in this growing and changing sector of our economy.

I commend the ACS for this work.

The Albanese Labor Government understands how important the digital economy is for our country.

It is why we are supporting the tech sector and high-tech employers.

We live in a world dominated by digital technology — this has happened quickly and continues to move at a rapid pace.

Most jobs today require the use, and knowledge, of technology to keep up with modern society and are becoming increasing digitised.

For example, people working in traditional trades, who we think of as doing ‘hands on’ work are now using software for scheduling, bookkeeping, parts supply, and advertising.

There was once a belief that technology would replace workers, with Artificial Intelligence replacing the need for humans.

Instead, what we are seeing is that form of technology augmenting existing jobs.

With this rapid change comes the ever-increasing need for digital skills to keep up with demand.

There are significant opportunities for more Australians to get well-paid and secure work in this growing sector, and to support the growth of Australian industry.

We know Australians are willing and ready to train, not only for the jobs that need doing now, but also for future jobs.

As Minister for Skills and Training, I am acutely aware that data and digital skills are some of the fastest growing emerging skill needs in Australia.

Last week the National Skills Commission released the 2022 Skills Priority List in which saw two tech professions including in the top 10 occupations suffering skills shortages - Software and Applications Programmers, and ICT Business and Systems Analysts.

This highlights how in demand digital skills are across the economy.

One point I found interesting in your report was that the top 20 in-demand skills in your industry include a combination of general basic skills and specialised technical skills.

The top three skills being asked for in ICT postings are: communication; teamwork and collaboration; and problem-solving skills.

This shows that employers are looking for more than just technical skills in their ICT workforce.

It also shows how transferrable certain skills can be and that there are opportunities for people to transfer or upskill into jobs in ICT.

Our government understands that digital skills are critical, to support our country to make the transition to a modern digital economy.

We are committed to ensuring all Australians have the digital skills needed to participate in in the workplace, the community and in education and training.

That is why I have committed to a comprehensive review of our foundation skills programs, which will be supported by the establishment of an advisory body in the near future.

It’s well known the biggest challenge facing Australian businesses and organisations across the board right now, is finding the skilled staff they need.

We are especially keen to support those operating in growth areas such as renewable energy, education, information technology and the caring industries.

The Australian Government has committed to supporting the target of 1.2 million tech-related jobs by 2030.

To meet this target, Australia will need an additional 650,000 tech workers by the end of the decade. To achieve this, we need to further strengthen our national training system so that there are sufficiently skilled people to fill those roles.

Currently vacancies for ICT related jobs have increased around 30 per cent compared to pre-COVID-19 levels and here has been strong momentum from industry for action in this space.

This is important because we can’t achieve these ambitious goals for extra tech workers unless all the key players work together.

That is where our Digital and Tech Skills Compact comes in — an important outcome of the Jobs and Skills Summit we held in September, and the work of the digital sector leading up to the Summit.

The Compact is an agreement between government, industry, unions and others to work together to meet Australia’s digital and tech workforce challenge.

As part of the Compact, we will create a Digital and Tech Skills Working Group to provide advice on how to respond to Australia’s digital skills challenge in the context of
the country’s broader labour market challenges.

The Working Group will be asked to provide advice on a ‘Digital Apprenticeship’ model to support workers to earn while they learn in entry level tech roles, with a focus on improving equity for those traditionally under-represented in digital and tech fields.

Workplace learning approaches are not new for digital careers. Based on the latest data there are more than 5,000 people already engaged in ICT traineeships, which is fantastic, but we want to get even more people on these sorts of pathways.

We want the working group to consider what is working well and whether workplace learning approaches can be scaled up to meet demand.

Companies will need to help tackle the skills shortage by taking on new employees through pathways that blend employment and formal training, such as ‘Digital Apprenticeships’. Addressing skills shortages will be a shared effort between industry, unions and government.

To meet the 1.2 million target, we know that there will also need to be increased diversity in the tech workforce.

We would like to increase the number of women benefiting from secure, well-paid jobs in the industry, as just one example.

Research by the Tech Council of Australia shows that only 1 in 4 people working in the industry are women.

Improving representation of women and other underrepresented groups is necessary if we are to significantly grow the tech workforce in Australia.

The Working Group will have a critical role in building consensus on the actions required, not just by government but by all stakeholders. 

This new approach is so important, because to date, there has not been a strategic overarching effort to address digital skills shortages, but rather individual initiatives across both government and industry to provide targeted support. 

Our government is taking a leadership role in collaborating with industry to achieve a cohesive approach to addressing digital skills needs.

Our government is also looking to deliver 1,000 digital traineeships in the Australian Public Service over four years, with a focus on opportunities for women, First Nations people, older Australians, and veterans transitioning to civilian life.

This work is all complemented by our government’s broader training, labour market and broader economic agenda, which provides a strong foundation to achieve our goal of addressing Australia’s digital and tech workforce challenge.

This includes our additional investments in TAFE and higher education.

To support businesses to get the skills they need, we will make 465,000 fee-free TAFE places available and deliver 20,000 university places. This will help us tackle skills shortages in key industries, including digital and cyber security.

We will encourage 2,000 new young entrepreneurs with 2,000 income-contingent, start-up loans offered to final year students and recent graduates to support them to participate in accelerator programs.

Our Future Made in Australia plan will also spark demand for domestic manufacturing and technology solutions.

Under this plan, our government will invest up to $15 billion of capital in job-creating loans, equity and guarantees across sectors including resources, medical science, and renewables and low-emissions tech.

We are establishing Jobs and Skills Australia to provide data driven analysis to guide and enable policy makers to forecast and respond strategically to skills demand pressures both now and into the future.

As I said many times leading up to and during the Jobs and Skills Summit, we are just not talking about these issues, we are taking action.

One issue discussed during the Jobs and Skills Summit was the role of migration in filling skill gaps.

Yes, we want to see people trained in Australia to fills these jobs now and in the future, but it is not a binary choice.

We are committed to striking the right balance on skilled migration — ensuring quality jobs for Australians, while leveraging the skills and talent the world can offer.

Reducing the visa backlog is a priority for government, particularly for those highly skilled workers currently overseas.

We are also committed to improving migration settings to support high productivity and wages in all sectors, including the tech sector.

As I have said, efforts by the Albanese Government will need to be matched by work in industry to support digital career pathways, upskilling and reskilling more Australians into digital jobs.

Our government is committed to investing in the skills Australia needs most and this includes the technology sector.

I commend ACS for its work to build our knowledge of the industry landscape and emerging needs.

As you rightly note, rapid growth of your industry presents strong opportunities, but also presents challenges as demand for some skills grows more quickly than for others.

We will continue to rely on partners in industry, like ACS, to give us insights into what your industry needs and what is working well.

I wish you all the best and thank you for inviting me to speak with you today.