Why Australian businesses are crying out for tech talent – The Australian Financial Review

This content has been funded by an advertiser and written by the Nine commercial editorial team.
Demand for new technology is booming, thanks to the IT needs of a global pandemic – teamed with a sudden rush of entrepreneurialism and venture capitalists with cash to splash.
But while Australian businesses and organisations are primed to innovate on the tech front, a chronic skill shortage is forcing many to put the brakes on.
Reece Group is one of many businesses aiming to address Australia’s tech skills gap. Reece Group
The skills shortage is nothing new, but with other pressures at play, including border closures during COVID-19, and low unemployment figures, the situation has only worsened.
“The current pipeline of talent simply cannot keep up with the pace at which jobs are being vacated or created,” says Sam Kroonenberg, executive strategic advisor at workforce development company Pluralsight.
“For perspective, the Tech Council of Australia has forecast Australia will need 1 million people in tech jobs by 2025, meaning around 260,000 more people will need to enter the Australian tech workforce in that time.”
Kroonenberg says the global events of the past two years have seen the appetite for emerging and innovative technologies, such as cloud computing, big data and artificial intelligence, increase dramatically across all industries.
Sam Kroonenberg, executive strategic advisor at Pluralsight. Pluralsight
But with a lack of qualified, skilled professionals ready to support tech projects, he says Australia will continue to see delays – or the complete abandonment – of key strategic technology initiatives.
“If the skills gap is not adequately addressed, Australian businesses will fall further behind the pace of digital transformation, and breaking into the global market will become out of reach—ultimately preventing Australia from becoming a top 10 digital economy by 2030.”
While you might not automatically equate plumbing supplies with technology, Reece Group is just one of many Australian businesses doing it all can to plug the hole.
It has a 250-strong tech team servicing its Australian and New Zealand operations, and on May 2 the company shifted its headquarters to Cremorne, near Richmond, to be closer to Melbourne’s tech talent.
Chief technology officer Marcos Kurowski says in the past 24 months, Reece’s tech team has grown about 40 per cent in its key software engineering areas.
Marcos Kurowski, chief technology officer at Reece Group. Reece Group
As the pandemic hit, Reece made a strategic choice to go hard on technology, he says.
“We saw an opportunity to double down, invest even more in tech and digital to create a wider gap between us and our competitors, and help our clients even more.”
However Kurowski describes the tech shortage as a “massive issue” across the board.
He highlights two particular problem areas; the first being an acute shortage of technologists who want to go into people leader roles.
Kurowski also believes industry may have focused its attention on marketing STEM and highly technical jobs, while neglecting other roles including project management, UX design and business analysts.
Then there’s the increasingly fertile start-up environment, with all those new ventures powered by technology, he says.
“There’s a lot of VC money being poured into the ecosystem and that just means we need more people to build new companies, which is super exciting, but puts more strain on the system.”
Rosie Cairnes, vice president of Asia Pacific at corporate learning company Skillsoft, agrees that technology and digital transformation is now at the heart of nearly every company, in every industry – in a way that it wasn’t even five years ago.
“Technology is no longer just the province of the IT department – it’s central to the way we find our customers, the products, and services we offer, the way we sell, and the way we delight our customers,” she says.
“When nearly every company on the planet is competing for these skilled technology professionals, you can see why technology skill gaps are universally felt. Add in geographic constraints – like the closure of Australia’s borders – and that problem becomes even more acute.”
Rosie Cairnes, vice president of Asia Pacific at Skillsoft. Skillsoft
As the labour market for technical professionals has become increasingly competitive, Cairnes says companies are finding it costs more to retain them, but too expensive to address the skills gap through new hires.
“Our most successful customers generally are all placing greater reliance on upskilling and reskilling programs to address their growing skill gaps.”
Along with building a culture of learning, she says businesses need to further develop strategies to attract a diverse labour pool, including more women.
At Reece, Kurowski says the tech crunch isn’t yet impacting the company’s ability to innovate, though it may affect the speed of projects long-term.
It’s pulling out all stops to upskill its workforce, including offering a scholarship to an academy that turns tech rookies into software engineers in nine months.
Kurowski says Reece is also keen to attract talented expats back to Australia, along with international recruits.
“We’ve got amazing tech talent in Australia for sure, but not enough of it. It can only help enrich our local ecosystem if we can bring some really experienced people from international markets to join the team as well.”
This content has been funded by an advertiser and written by the Nine commercial editorial team.
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