Australian businesses facing talent crunch amid scramble to transform

A survey reveals that Australian firms will require 35,000 IT workers this year, but they are not getting the talent they need

Australian businesses will create 35,000 new IT roles this year, as they scramble to transform operations and avoid being disrupted out of existence, a new survey has found.

But there will be a significant amount of job churn, with one in 10 businesses predicting that some roles will be made redundant as a result of digital transformation.

While Telsyte, which conducted the survey on behalf of DXC Technology, believes that there will be a net increase in jobs, some roles will cease to exist.

Foad Fadaghi, Telsyte managing director, said those whose jobs were made redundant by transformation initiatives could be retrained. For example, IT workers who have managed internal infrastructure could be retrained as cyber security specialists when their roles were overtaken by a move to the cloud.

That retraining option, however, would not apply for all workers, he said.

Fadaghi stressed that the human impact of transformation is cumulative. Last year, when Telsyte conducted the first survey of this kind, it uncovered enterprise demand for 30,000 new IT roles. This number has since ballooned to 65,000 new positions over two years.

He said that while there had been a surge in the number of graduate programmes to upskill or reskill workers, skills demand continued to outstrip supply, a challenge compounded by Australia’s current skilled migration rules.

The Australian Computer Society, which polled its members ahead of this month’s Federal election, has also identified skills as a major concern for local businesses. It has recommended that the incoming government set aside A$100m to fund a Skills 4.0 training initiative to upskill employees.

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It also proposed that 2,000 special fast-tracked four-year visas be made available for computer science graduates from the top 25 computer science universities, with the possibility of permanent residency down the track.

However, the major political parties have placed very little emphasis on innovation and technology issues in the current election campaign. Even so, whoever forms a government will have to grapple with the human and societal impacts of rapidly changing workforce requirements as companies increasingly automate operations.

The Telsyte survey of 447 business and IT leaders also revealed that most believe there is a two-year window to transform to mitigate the impact of digital disruption. A rising proportion of companies are also taking an organisation-wide approach to transformation, with CEOs leading digital transformation initiatives in a third of all businesses followed by CIOs.

Despite the enthusiasm for technology, there are still many transformation projects which fail to bear fruit.

“If contained within pilot projects or in models such as agile development, a one in six failure rate is not necessarily bad and can encourage a fast fail mentality to avoid costly monolithic projects and unproven experiments,” the report noted.

Catalysts of transformation

As for technologies that are being championed as catalysts of transformation, artificial intelligence scores highest in large enterprises, while the internet of things and 5G are seen as transformational by large and small businesses alike.

What is still lagging is investment in professional development for staff. Some 26% of survey respondents cited the lack of employee engagement as a key reason for project failure, while less than a third reported investing in digital transformation training for their staff.

DXC Technology managing director Seelan Nayagam said: “More needs to be done to take employees on the transformation journey. To achieve success, employee education must be the cornerstone of any digital transformation programme and not regarded as an afterthought”.

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