Having more technology jobs than people to fill them has been an ongoing problem in Australia for years.

It regularly results in long-term vacancies and bidding wars for potential skilled employees.

The problem was dialled up even further when the country’s borders were rapidly shut down as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

The regular flow of skilled migrants into the country stopped almost overnight and it’s yet to be seen when it will resume .

However, while opening the borders will certainly help to address the skills shortage, it will fall a long way short of solving it.

Even when migration surges, there will still be a very sizeable gap between supply and demand.

The challenge is highlighted by ACS’ annual Digital Pulse report.

According to ACS, the nation needs an additional 60,000 IT staff every year to meet the requirements of industry and government.

Areas of demand

When it comes to which skills are in short supply, the finger is often pointed at IT security.

A relentless rise in cybercrime and the increasing digitisation of daily life means security professionals are spoilt for choice when seeking employment.

However security is not the only area experiencing staffing shortages. Cloud-based services and platforms are also crying out for additional skilled people.

Anyone with experience with Microsoft’s Intune management platform, for example, will never be out of work.

Skilled workers are also in strong demand in almost every industry vertical. There are vacancies in hospitals, manufacturing, education, retail, and hospitality.

Increasing supply

Aside from migration, Australia’s universities have been another source of skilled IT professionals. Each year, thousands of people enrol in courses to gain the knowledge they’ll need in the workplace.

However, there are questions being raised about whether Australian universities are producing graduates with the right mix of skills.

In an industry changing at an exponential rate, it’s unlikely a course developed even a few years ago will still be sufficiently relevant today.

For this reason, universities are going to need to reinvent the ways in which content is delivered to students. The usual three or four-year course may have to give way to learning that also involves on-the-job experience.

One option might be for students to complete a portion of their university course, then shift into on-the-job training.

After, say, 12 months they return to university to complete their degree.

Universities will also need to find ways to work more closely with technology vendors.

In this way, courses can be shaped and content developed that has up-to-date, real-world application.

There’s little benefit in students graduating with knowledge that is already out of date.

The concept of life-long learning will also need to become even more engrained in the technology sector.

Just as doctors and medical staff need to be constantly studying and staying abreast of new information and techniques, so a similar mindset will need to be adopted by IT professionals.

Reskilling existing workers

While attracting new talent into an organisation is the goal of any leader, many are also realising that required talent may already exist in-house.

An increasing numbers of organisations are giving their staff the chance to shift careers and enter the world of IT.

For example, someone who has spent years in accounting may wish to become involved with managing financial software or cloud services.

Another staff member who works in marketing might jump at the chance to be reskilled in IT security.

Taking such an approach is also a great way for leadership teams to promote a wider and deeper understanding of their organisations.

This, in turn, increases both loyalty to the company and long-term job satisfaction.

The need for soft skills

When thinking about ways to address the skills shortage, it’s important to not forget the softer skills that are so important in modern business.

People who are empathetic, well-spoken and engaging tend to work well as part of a team and can help to grow the skills of those around them.

Australia’s IT skills crisis is not going to be solved anytime soon, however, by thinking outside the box, the nation can equip students with real-world knowledge and experience while also encouraging career-changing moves among existing staff.

Reopening borders is important, but it’s not the only thing that needs to be done.

Jean Scott is People and Culture Manager at Somerville. She has more than 20 years experience as an HR executive.

This content has been written by a topic area expert. It is not a sponsored post or advertisement.