Why NZ should address its digital skills gap soon

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Industry, government and education sector should accelerate action to address the growing shortage in digital skills driven by the speed and scale in demand, according to New Zealand Digital Skills forum chair Victoria MacLennan.

“The growing skills shortage in New Zealand's IT industry and broader economy is very real," she said, as reported by the New Zealand Herald.

The report commissioned by the forum found an 11% annual increase in demand for software programmer jobs.

In 2016, more than 120,000 people were employed in the tech sector and about 14,000 new jobs were created. But only 5,090 tech students graduated the previous year and 5,500 tech visas were granted.

The numbers clearly show a shortfall, and that the supply of people with advanced digital skills did not meet demand and the gap was growing.

Aside from the deficit, there were also There was also a diversity challenge. In 2016, 36% of tech students were female and only 8% were Maori.

MacLennan added that if industry, government and education fail to act, “the future prosperity of New Zealand will suffer greatly.

"We need to nurture and develop local talent, and at the same time make sure that we fill any gaps from the best talent we can find worldwide. If we do this, well then we have the opportunity to make New Zealand a technology powerhouse on the world stage.”

The Digital Skills Forum already brings together leading teach industry and government agencies to address the shortage.

“But more must be done.” The report, she said, presents a great opportunity as technology is an important part of day-to-day life of New Zealanders.

“Just about everyone has a stake in our success,” she added.

This year the school education sector had been reformed to include digital education. The median salary for technology roles was $82,000 - nearly twice the average median salary, MacLennan said.

"Together, we need to remove barriers for our graduates finding their first job, make it easier for those seeking a career change, and improve the gender and cultural diversity in digital roles. None of us can do this on our own."

The New Zealand Digital Skills Forum includes NZRise, NZTech,and IT Professionals NZ from the tech sector, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry of Education, the Department of Internal Affairs and the Tertiary Education Commission from government.

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