Imported bods aren’t enough to meet rampant skills demand

Published on the 12/04/2017 | Written by Donovan Jackson

tech skills demand_Looksee

Shortages demonstrate propensity for tech industry to create rather than destroy jobs…

While there is abundant worry about job losses owing to the advances of technology, consider for a moment the apparent paradox of skills shortages in the very industries which are driving automation in the first place. That much has become evident as a Wellington campaign LookSee attracted more than 48,000 applications. Not even that, in NZTech’s view, is sufficient to solve the tech skills shortage.

The organisation’s CE Graeme Muller said the country should not depend on immigration as a ‘silver bullet to tech skills shortages’ and added that the work the education system is doing to help build local talent is crucial.

NZTech is among the organisations behind LookSee, along with the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, Workhere and Immigration NZ. The campaign was designed to fill about 250 open senior developer roles in Wellington – but those 48,000 applications, Muller said, reflected considerable international demand for tech roles in New Zealand.

“There are firms right across New Zealand that are still struggling to find enough people with digital skills, in tech firms and in organisations across most sectors. Once Wellington has finalised the LookSee campaign the plan is to ensure as many other roles are filled throughout New Zealand from the highest quality applicants,” Muller said in a statement.

That paradox – of skills shortages despite automation/the introduction of more ‘job destroying technology’ – is often put down to the relative inflexibility of education providers to deliver the types of skills demanded by rapidly changing business and industry. There is also the possible factor of a preponderance of students opting for the apparent easy way out, pursuing arts degrees instead of those in STEM subjects, and subsequently finding that securing a job in a technologically-driven world is difficult without the appropriate skills (although not all hope is lost).

Muller said, “The introduction of digital technologies to the New Zealand curricula from 2018 for all ages from year one to 13 is a great step toward helping prepare the future workforce for the future jobs that will be highly digital. As technology becomes more pervasive we are already seeing the demand for tech skills accelerate across all sectors. This demand, plus the rapid growth of the tech sector means the number of unfilled tech roles continues to rise.”

Those changes in the education system, Muller added, should see the supply of local tech talent slowly increases in coming years to better meet demand.

He said the Digital Skills Forum, an industry/government working group on addressing digital skills shortages, is soon to launch a national survey to quantify the current shortages, identify the skills most needed and forecast demand.

“Other activities to help develop interest in tech roles includes NZTech’s Shadow Tech day which in June will take young girls from schools and match them with a woman in tech for a day to get a feel for working in the tech sector.”

Tech is now the third largest export from New Zealand and the fastest growing sector, employing over 100,000 people. There are tech skills shortages throughout the world and Muller said New Zealand is doing a great job working creatively to help bridge the gap.

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