The 2019 edition of ACS Australia's Digital Pulse report has been released, and the evidence confirms what many of us have suspected. Firstly, technology in Australia is going gangbusters, as demonstrated by the trade surplus in technology services growing 76 per cent to reach $510m in 2018.
Secondly, employers still can't find sufficient skills to meet the growth ambitions of their businesses.
ACS Australia's Digital Pulse report is an annual stock take of Australia's digital economy and workforce prepared by Deloitte Access Economics. While growth is going great, you sense our nation is leaving plenty on the table. We still need 100,000 additional technology workers by 2024 to meet current demand. This hasn't changed much over the past five years. If we as a country want to be a world leader, we will need to double those numbers.
Our future prosperity will depend on continued investment in technology underpinned by higher-level skills required to operate them or build new products and industries. Across the developed world, we are seeing ageing populations, and as a result there is strong competition to attract the best foreign talent to our shores.
If we can't materially change the number of workers, then we need to use technology to make production more efficient.
Future talent pipeline is always important and ensuring that our children are well placed to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the digital age is naturally a focus for all of us. The best way to grow GDP in the immediate future is to lift the productivity and efficiency of our nation's existing workforce.
That's why the Digital Pulse report calls out skills development as the highest public policy priority for the digital economy. There needs to be a concentrated focus on building emerging tech skills.
The laws of supply and demand hold true for anyone looking for a pay rise. Where there are shortages, wages are higher.
This is clearly evident in the findings of the Digital Pulse report where wages are used as a proxy on the benefits of reskilling workers in other professional industries to meet employer demand for technology skills, valuing this at more than $11,000 per employee per year. This represents the difference between the average annual wage earned by technology workers (around $100,700 in 2018) and workers employed in professional industries ($89,600).
With skills shortages in technology very real, now is the time to upskill and secure that higher paying job.
Andrew Johnson is ACS chief executive