Australia’s technology workforce numbers jumped 33,400 to 805,525 workers despite COVID, a 4.3% increase from last year, led by those sectors experiencing rapid digitisation including finance, utilities, construction and retail.

And over the next five years, the technology workforce is forecast to exceed 1.1m Australians, more than four times faster than the broader labour force numbers, according to the 2021 edition of the ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse report, which tracks the key trends in the nation’s technology workforce and its potential growth over the next five years.

Despite the boom, current trends indicate an impending gap between the need for an extra 60,000 technology workers each year and just 7,000 domestic IT degree graduates.

Boosting reskilling and restarting migration will be essential to meet Australia’s ICT needs.

Dr Ian Oppermann, ACS President, said the projections in this year’s Digital Pulse illustrate the importance of the ICT sector.

“Technology is becoming increasingly important to business, government and society. This was clearly shown during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

“As emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and smart cities become commonplace, the demand for suitably skilled workers will continue to grow. We must start working today to meet the digital skill needs of tomorrow.”

Young Australians are recognising the value of digital skills with IT being the fastest growing field of education for domestic enrolments with over 41,000 in 2019.

But the report identifies a looming gap between the 60,000 technology workers a year needed and the if recent current domestic completions of IT degrees.

The future of technology workforce will substantially rely on reskilling from other industries.

Where are the women?

Meanwhile, the lack of female representation could cost the economy $11bn over the next two decades unless we accelerate towards gender parity.

This year’s Digital Pulse identifies five areas where Australia could address its ICT weaknesses:

• Promote ICT education

• Deepen digital skills across industries

• Boost female participation in ICT

• Re-energise digital transformation programs

• Identify IT contractors’ capabilities

ACS Chief Executive Officer, Rupert Grayston, said the ACS Digital Pulse 2021 report lays out a comprehensive picture of Australia’s ICT industry and the opportunities over the next five years.

“In key growth areas, such as artificial intelligence, it’s estimated that Australia will require an AI specialist workforce of between 32,000 and 161,000.

“If the Government wants to meet its new target of under 5% unemployment, reskilling and upskilling the workforce for technology roles is a vital part of the solution.”

The ACS Australia’s Digital Pulse 2021 report can be downloaded here.