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The $10b tech skills challenge to Australia’s recovery

RMIT Online launches new skills report with Deloitte Access Economics

Australia needs 156,000 new technology workers with 87 per cent of jobs now requiring digital skills, according to research from RMIT Online and Deloitte Access Economics. Addressing the digital skills shortage is imperative for the Australian economic recovery from COVID-19, and a failure to rise to the challenge could jeopardise $10 billion growth in the technology, media and communications industries alone by 2025. 

The Ready, Set, Upskill - Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow report, which surveyed 1,000 Australian working professionals and employers, revealed the importance of addressing Australia’s digital skills gap to keep pace with the rapid transformation of the business environment. 

While some Australians undertook training to meet digital needs, evidence suggests it won’t be enough to fill the gap, with 50,600 Australians reporting a lack of the necessary skills or education as their main difficulty in finding work as of August 2020.  Of those surveyed, 29 per cent of Australians reported their critical thinking skills improved over the course of the pandemic, however, this was not accompanied by a similar uptick in technical skills like coding. 

The report’s release comes as many businesses look towards digitisation as a pathway to recover from the impact of the pandemic. 

  • One-third of respondents felt their job requirements had changed and one in four reported they didn’t have the skills they needed to complete their day-to-day job
  • 61 per cent of respondents reported their skills improved over the pandemic - but these are soft skills rather than digital skills
  • One-quarter of those surveyed said their data analysis skills are not at the level required or are outdated compared with their employers’ requirements 
  • More than half of Australians have little to no understanding of coding, blockchain, AI and data visualisation 

The report also reveals that three out of four Australians want to learn about emerging technologies, such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, and that four in five Australian business leaders think that adopting new technologies is important in order to achieve business goals. 

Commenting on the findings, Helen Souness, CEO at RMIT Online, said, “Responding to Australia’s digital skills gap is a national imperative, and our economic recovery will rely heavily on the availability of these skills to power business transformation. 

“The findings of our research shows not only an appetite among Australians to enhance their digital skills through upskilling initiatives but a dire need to do so in order to both bolster and modernise our economy so that we can keep up with the ever-evolving digital landscape."

“With four in five Australian business leaders agreeing that adopting new technologies is important in order to achieve business goals, the decisions we make now will be a key driver of our economic success. What is encouraging is the number of people who say they have extended skills like leadership and critical thinking as we know these enterprise skills are also critical to Australia’s business leaders. What we now need to see is a similar extension of technical skills in our corporate workforce.”  

John O'Mahony, Partner at Deloitte Access Economics, said, “Investing in our workforce promises to deliver strong returns, including economic growth, that will continue on for years to come.

“The time to act on workforce development is now, and as the research shows, an imperative first step is ensuring Australia’s workforce is equipped with a basic level of digital literacy through effective skills development and training programs.”

For more information on the report, please visit



This report is informed by a survey of 1,078 Australians fielded by Dynata in December 2020. Survey respondents were individuals across all age groups and jurisdictions and were either employed or unemployed and seeking work. The survey included individuals in the six ABS occupational categories with the highest levels of post-school qualifications, namely: managers, professionals, technicians and trades workers, community and personal service workers, clerical and administrative workers and sales workers. 

The survey covered a broad range of primary and service and industries: mining, utilities, construction, hospitality, information technology and media, finance, real estate, professional services, administrative services, general government, health care and education. If respondents did not answer key questions, such as education level, they were excluded from the survey. Figures contained in the report relate to surveyed individuals, unless otherwise specified. As such, results may be representative of just the surveyed population. 


This article was originally published on 18 February 2021