How Australian organisations can plug the cloud skills gap

Organisations will need to acquire a broader set of skills and invest in reskilling and employee experience to attract and retain cloud talent

Attracting and retaining talent to operate in the cloud remains a persistent challenge, underscoring the cloud skills gap that has been preventing companies from fully realising the benefits of the technology.

According to a recent cloud adoption study by Accenture, over a third of companies rated the lack of cloud skills as their top three concerns, which has stayed unchanged since 2020 when the study was last conducted. Security and complexity were also frequently cited barriers, further exacerbating the overall tech talent crunch.

Jonathan Taylor, managing director for cloud, infrastructure and engineering at Accenture Australia, said that while cloud engineering, data engineering and cloud architecture talent continues to be difficult to acquire and retain, the fact that companies are now innovating with cloud technologies – not just around customer experience but also in core business processes – requires a broader set of skills.

“It’s not just about tech and transformation – it’s also about understanding how to innovate and be really close to the business problem,” Taylor told Computer Weekly. “It's an interesting conundrum that’s increasing the skills shortage in some ways, because now we've got a broader set of skills we need.”

That could open career opportunities for those who were concerned about entering the cloud industry, which is often perceived as a technical domain, Taylor said, adding: “That’s positive for all of us because there’s a bigger pool of talent to draw from and we’re going to get greater diversity of capability, skills, background and experience.”

To plug the cloud skills gap, Taylor said organisations have been reskilling their workforce and partnering with tertiary institutions to attract new talent. More established firms, he said, would have invested in a talent strategy that includes “elements of how they acquire talent and what’s appropriate for them in terms of the skills or capabilities they want to have, because it’s very difficult for organisations to be able to do everything”.

Taylor said organisations would have to decide what they would like to focus on and that tends to be aligned with business problems which they could solve by developing their own intellectual property.

They could also partner with organisations such as Accenture to support areas where they may not want to focus on, as well as core areas such as coding and skills development, Taylor added. “We can help them acquire, retain and upskill their capabilities at scale, and it is also in our interest to do so from a social and economic impact point of view.”

Hyperscalers are also doing their part, spearheading programmes with universities to train cloud talent that organisations can tap as well. Amazon Web Services (AWS), for example, has been working with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to offer courses to get IT and business professionals trained and eventually certified on its cloud technologies.

“The hyperscalers have done an awesome job contributing and participating in the education process,” Taylor said. “The certification process that they’ve defined is very mature.”

To retain cloud talent, Taylor called for organisations to focus on employee experience with the same level of importance that they may attach to customer experience. “That ranges from the experience when I first started to the experience throughout my career lifecycle, and how you're helping me to achieve my aspirations.”

According to the Tech Council of Australia, Australia has experienced an unprecedented tech boom in the past decade, contributing A$167bn per annum to its GDP and employing 861,000 people. This makes the tech sector equivalent to Australia’s third-largest industry, behind mining and banking. To achieve the sector’s full potential, it estimated that Australia will need 280,000 new skilled tech workers by 2025.

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