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NZ urged to address current - and future - digital skills shortage, now: Report

NZ urged to address current - and future - digital skills shortage, now: Report

“We cannot wait, we need to act on the findings of this report, today,” says Victoria MacLennan of the NZ Digital Skills Forum.


We need to undertake a programme of constant digital attraction

A report released by the New Zealand Digital Skills Forum confirms the significant and growing digital skills shortage across the country.

The report is a warning bell to industry, government and the education sector, says Victoria MacLennan, head of the forum, which commissioned the report.

The report says more than 120,000 people were employed in the tech sector last year and about 14,000 new jobs were created. However, only 5,090 tech students graduated in 2015, and 5,500 tech visas were granted in same period, demonstrating a shortfall.

At the same time, it states New Zealand is facing an 11 per cent annual increase in demand for software programmer jobs. 

The report highlights another challenge - diversity. In 2016,  it finds only, 36 per cent of tech students were female and only 8 per cent were Māori.

Meanwhile, New Zealand needs programmes designed to support re-entry to work and upskilling for those whose jobs are most likely to be replaced by automation, says MacLennan.

High demand for skills + low supply of skilled workers + demand forecast to grow = DIGITAL SKILLS GAP

“Without investment and a coordinated national effort, public and private sector partnerships, we run the risk of falling behind other nations investing in a Digital Future," says MacLennan.

“We cannot wait, we need to act on the findings of this report, today.”

 “As a country, we must help younger New Zealanders discover a prosperous future working in the technology roles where the median salary is $82,000, almost twice the average median salary.

“Together, we need to remove barriers for our graduates finding their first job, make it easier for those seeking a career change, and improve the gender and cultural diversity in digital roles. None of us can do this on our own.

“As a result of this report, we now have tangible and concrete data on the size, scale and nature of the digital skills shortage in our sector and across the New Zealand economy. This report identifies both a challenge and a massive opportunity, but it will take all of us to realise it."

“The Digital Skills Forum study has highlighted that not only are insufficient numbers of tertiary students studying computer sciences or information technology, but they also struggle to transition into roles following their graduation. As a nation we could do better at showcasing a variety of pathways into digital technology roles," adds NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller.

Graeme Muller - CEO, NZTech
Graeme Muller - CEO, NZTech

The New Zealand Digital Skills Forum includes NZRise, NZTech and IT Professionals NZ from the tech sector, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Education, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Tertiary Education Commission from government.

Paul Matthews, CEO of IITP
Paul Matthews, CEO of IITP

The report defines digital skills as those needed to find, evaluate, utilise, share and create content using information technologies and the Internet.

The skills can be basic, such as  the ability to use email or online banking, through to more advanced skills such as programming.

“As many services move online, basic digital literacy skills are now required by the entire population. These skills are needed to carry out essential functions such as digital communication or basic internet searches in a secure way.

“Because of this, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom recently stated that digital skills should be treated with the same importance as numeracy and literacy,” the report states.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Communications Minister Clare Curran welcome the release of the report.

“We are committed to increasing the investment in digital learning in schools and also among the wider population through an emphasis on enabling lifelong learning,” says Hipkins. “The Ministry of Education will also work with the Digital Skills forum to address the issues raised in the report.”

Curran says much of what’s in the report aligns with the new Government’s priorities and is very useful in quantifying the size of the skills shortage. “We need to know as much as we can about the size, scale and nature of the digital skills shortage in the digital technology sector, and across New Zealand,” she adds.

“This report takes a long term look at digital skills needs and highlights the gap between limited supply and increased demand for digital skills.”

“The tech sector is New Zealand’s fastest growing industry and makes a significant contribution to our economy. We want to close the digital divides by 2020, and make ICT the second largest contributor to GDP by 2025.”

Next: Building the talent pipeline -  top 10 recommendations

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