IT training needed for New Zealand to stay competitive during COVID-19 border closures - survey

IT training needed for New Zealand to stay competitive during COVID-19 border closures - survey
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More New Zealanders need to improve their digital skills, as workforce shortages are exacerbated by Covid-19 border closures, new research shows.

NZTech's Digital Skills Aotearoa survey found firms were not doing enough to upskill their staff, leaving a lack of experienced workers to fill complex digital technology roles.

About 100,000 people worked in digital roles in New Zealand, NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller said.

"Companies spend less than 10 percent on upskilling."

In 2019, more than 80 percent of the skilled workers needed to fill jobs in the sector came from overseas, he said.

About 4000 to 5000 new digital technology workers were needed in New Zealand each year. Similar numbers of students were trained and 3863 immigrants also gained visas for IT work in 2019 - but gaps still existed for highly skilled IT staff, the survey found.

"The industry research conducted as part of this study found that the majority of roles being recruited are for senior or experienced individuals, with very few entry level positions available.

"This indicates a skills shortage for senior experienced capabilities and an oversupply of underskilled graduates," the survey report said.

Better connections between the IT industry and education organisations were needed, the survey found.

The pandemic had increased the use of digital technology around the world, Muller said.

"Covid has accelerated digitalisation globally, necessitating a mass upskilling of digital skills by the entire population," he said.

"If New Zealand doesn't improve the digital skills of its workforce, we will continue to have low levels of productivity and ultimately more expensive, less competitive products competing in global markets."

By 2025, about 149 million new digital technology jobs were expected to be created worldwide, the report said.

It raised concerns about low levels of participation in digital technology education by girls and minority groups.

"Only 27 percent of digital technology employees are women, 4 percent Māori and 2.8 percent Pacific peoples.

"The declining participation of New Zealanders in digital technology career pathways, especially women, Māori and Pacific peoples is of great concern.

"There is an increasing risk that New Zealand culture will not be captured in the code being developed, in the algorithms and user interfaces of future digital tools."

The Digital Skills Forum was established in 2015 to bring together representatives from the government and tech industry. The report analysed data from the Ministry of Education on secondary and tertiary education, and immigration and occupation figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.