Tech talent shortage: Updated priority migration list doesn’t go far enough

Benjamin-Chong-startup-funding

Right Click Capital partner Benjamin Chong.

The inclusion of software programmers, analysts and IT security specialists on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL) doesn’t go far enough in addressing Australia’s tech skills shortage, according to Aussie VC Benjamin Chong.

The addition of 22 new occupations almost doubles the list by adding a range of taxation and management roles, as well as chefs.

On the tech side of things, the list includes multimedia specialists, analyst programmers, software and applications programmers and ICT security specialists.

Chong, a partner at Right Click Capital, says he broadly welcomes the recognition of the tech sector in the changes. However, speaking to SmartCompany, he says he would have liked to see more tech-related roles on the list.

And he doesn’t think this change goes far enough in addressing the skills shortage in the sector.

“The broader question is: what is the government doing to open borders?”

Australian universities can’t produce the sheer volume of skilled workers required fast enough, and without skilled migration — including migrants coming via the working holiday visa route and those entering Australia to study — Chong says there’s “a real dearth of talent” in the startup sector.

“There really needs to be more migration to Australia and the government needs to really double down on its efforts in vaccinating us and opening the borders,” Chong says.

“It’s absolutely ridiculous at the moment.”

A spokesperson from the Australian Computer Society also told SmartCompany the group broadly welcomes the recognition from the government that the IT profession will play a role in the COVID-19 recovery.

However, ACS’s 2021 Digital Pulse report suggested we could be facing a shortfall of 60,000 tech workers per year over the next five years. Migration through the PMSOL will likely not go far enough to fill that.

“Skilled migration is only part of the solution to the shortage,” the spokesperson said.

“With just 7,000 domestic IT degree graduates, encouraging students to study and boosting reskilling of existing workers will also be essential,” they added.

The ACS report also found that measures to boost women’s participation in the tech sector to the same level of other white-collar industries could add some 5,000 workers per year.

“There are a number of other ways we can boost the size of the workforce,” the spokesperson said.

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