Tuesday’s federal budget needs to include efforts to address the worker shortages that are plaguing the Australian tech sector, funding to uplift cybersecurity across the economy, and the creation of a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, according to Australia’s peak membership association for IT professionals, the Australian Computer Society (ACS).
Treasurer Jim Chalmers will hand down the federal budget tonight, his second following the Labor government’s first budget in October last year.
In a budget submission to Treasury, ACS pointed to Australia’s need for more than 60,000 new tech workers each year to reach the needed goal of 1.2 million workers by 2027.
To get there, significant funding and support is needed to bridge the existing workforce gap, the submission said.
“We cannot import enough workers to completely fix the shortfall, especially in light of the heated global competition for such talent,” the ACS submission said.
“Instead, we need to drastically improve the domestic pipeline. That is a long-term program.”
ACS called for the introduction of a $500 million trainee program to subsidise wages for women and under-represented groups in the tech sector. This scheme would provide a subsidy of $20,000 for 5,000 places per year over five years.
Improving gender diversity in the tech sector has been found to have the potential to create 5,000 new jobs each year over the next two decades, while better gender diversity could grow the economy by $1.8 billion yearly over the same time period.
Government policy also needs to be focused on the start of the pipeline, with better support for teachers looking to educate on tech skills, the ACS submission said.
This could come in the form of $100 million for resources and support for school teachers looking to implement the Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies framework.
“Australia’s chronic technology workforce shortages are hampering the nation’s ability to become a global digital leader by 2030,” the submission said.
“ACS calls on the Commonwealth government to boost the resources available to teachers delivering technology-related content.”
Three-quarters of primary school teachers currently have no experience in training or teaching this tech curriculum, studies have found.
“For our children to meet the needs of a technology driven society, ACS urges all parties to boost IT education resources and support to students and teachers with this program as a starting point,” ACS said.
On the skills issues, the submission also urged the government to introduce a tax credit program providing up to $10,000 per employee for businesses that are providing technical training and apprenticeships, with a focus on high demand areas like artificial intelligence and cyber security.
“Australia’s economy is rapidly evolving and technology touches all industries. For Australian businesses and workers to compete in the global digital economy, it is essential the workforce have skills appropriate to the modern workplace,” the submission stated.
The federal budget should also mandate compliance with the Essential Eight Maturity Level 3 cyber security mitigation tools for all public agencies and their partners, and $20 million should be allocated to a voluntary certification scheme to help organisations show how they are protecting data.
There should also be funding allocated for the creation of a Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology to provide independent advice to Parliamentarians, modelled on an office of the same name in the UK Parliament, ACS said.
In its own submission to Treasury, the Australian Investment Council called for the launch of new, simpler direct tax credits to help Australian businesses invest in software and other digital capabilities in order to transform their businesses and digitise core activities.
This scheme would be capped to investments of up to $100,000 per year for small businesses, and limited to investment in new technology and skills, the Council said.
In its submission, Stone and Chalk urged the federal government to create a national innovation strategy to bring together the various initiatives and stakeholders across government agencies and jurisdictions, and to collaborate with “innovation ecosystem builders”.