A growing digital skills shortage is sounding a warning bell to industry, government and the education sector, says New Zealand Digital Skills Forum chair Victoria MacLennan.
A report commissioned by the forum released today showed the country had a significant and growing digital skills shortage, primarily due to the speed and scale of the increase in demand for tech skills.
New Zealand was facing an 11 per cent annual increase in demand for software programmer jobs, the report said.
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.
“The growing skills shortage in New Zealand’s IT industry and broader economy is very real,” MacLennan said.
“Industry, government, and the education sector need to continue working closely together to accelerate plans and activities to address it, otherwise the future prosperity of New Zealand will suffer greatly,” MacLennan says.
The report showed the supply of people with advanced digital skills did not meet demand and the gap was growing.
“Through the Digital Skills Forum, a collaborative group of leading tech industry and government agencies, we’re working together to address digital skills shortages. But more must be done.”
There was also a diversity challenge. In 2016, 36 per cent of tech students were female and only 8 per cent were Maori.
It was important to note the digital skills challenges were not new, or limited to New Zealand.
“This report represents a great opportunity. Technology is such an important part of day-to-day life for all New Zealanders, meaning that just about everyone has a stake in our success as we respond to the challenges of our changing digital world,” MacLennan said.
“We need to continue working together to help nurture and develop local talent, and at the same time make sure that we fill any gaps from the best talent we can find worldwide. If we do this well then we have the opportunity to make New Zealand a technology powerhouse on the world stage.
The school education sector had this year been reformed to give every Kiwi child a digital education.
“Through targeted reviews and industry recognition, our tertiary sector is better positioned than ever before to deliver the quality graduates needed. There are also more alternative pathways into digital roles than ever before.”
The median salary for technology roles was $82,000 – nearly twice the average median salary, MacLennan said.
“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.”
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.
Source: NZ Herald