NZ's digital skills shortage worsening

A warning bell has been sounded to industry, government and the education sector by a new report revealing New Zealand has a significant and growing digital skills shortage.

The report, commissioned by the New Zealand Digital Skills Forum and released on Monday, says the shortage is primarily due to the speed and scale of the increase in demand for technology skills.

Forum chairwoman Victoria MacLennan said more than 120,000 people were employed in the tech sector last year and about 14,000 new jobs were created.

However, only 5090 technology students graduated in 2015, and 5500 technology visas were granted in the same period.

At the same time, New Zealand was facing an 11% annual increase in demand for software programmer jobs, she said.

``We also face a diversity challenge. In 2016, 36% of technology students were female and only 8% were Maori.

``The growing skills shortage in New Zealand's IT industry and broader economy is very real.

``Industry, government, and the education sector need to continue working closely together to accelerate plans and activities to address it. Otherwise the future prosperity of New Zealand will suffer greatly.''

The forum includes representatives from NZRise, NZTech and IT Professionals NZ from the technology 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.

The Government has welcomed the report.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins and Communications Minister Clare Curran said the Government recognised digital literacy and the development of digital skills was crucially important to modern lives and New Zealand's economic future.

``We are committed to increasing the investment in digital learning in schools and also among the wider population through an emphasis on enabling lifelong learning,'' Mr Hipkins said.

``We'll do that through a range of measures, including supporting the new digital technologies and hangarau matihiko curriculum, which starts in schools next year, and through the fees-free initiative.''

He said the Ministry of Education would also work with the Digital Skills Forum to address the issues raised in the report.

Ms Curran said much of what was in the report aligned with the Government's priorities and was very useful in quantifying the size of the skills shortage.

``We need to know as much as we can about the size, scale and nature of the digital skills shortage in the digital technology sector, and across New Zealand.''

She said the technology sector was New Zealand's fastest-growing industry and made a significant contribution to the economy.

``We want to close the digital divides by 2020, and make ICT the second-largest contributor to GDP by 2025.

``We have to grow and support local talent and at the same time grab the best talent worldwide to fill any gaps. If we do, we will have the opportunity to make New Zealand a worldwide technology capital.''

Ms Curran said the report would help Government identify areas of future focus and potential investment.


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