The panel, ‘Tapping into Australia’s high potential workforce’, was held at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, earlier this month, as part of Vivid Ideas 2016.
It featured speakers from UTS, Google, Atlassian, Salesforce and Red Garage Ventures – all of whom discussed the challenges Australia is facing when it comes to attracting and retaining a high potential workforce.
A two-pronged problem
Tara Sinclair, Chief Economist at Indeed, told attendees that while education rates are higher than ever before, job seekers and employers are each facing substantial challenges.
“Graduate employment is at the lowest rate since the recession in the early 1990s with many highly-qualified graduates struggling to find jobs related to their qualifications,” she said.
“Simultaneously, employers are reporting an undersupply of applicants for a range of technical roles, such as computer science, accounting, and engineering, well as in the fast-growing healthcare sector.”
a knowledge-based economy
Sinclair also addressed the seismic shifts facing Australia’s job market, noting that while millions of jobs are disappearing, millions more are emerging. She said Australia needs to learn to adapt to these changes for the success of the economy.
Continuing on from this point, Roy Green, Dean of UTS Business School said that Australia needs to shift away from resources to a knowledge- based economy.
“We are at the end of the resources boom and are adjusting to the non-mining economy,” he said.
“We don’t know what this looks like and at the moment, we’re not very well prepared. This doesn’t mean it is too late – we can still make the transition. It means shifting to an economy that’s competitive advantage is based on a knowledge-based market and recognising that a lot of the products we are focusing on today won’t be around in ten years.”
Sally-Ann Williams, Engineering Community & Outreach Manager at Google said a major challenge facing Australia is that people and organisations still think in terms of disciplinary silos.
“We have an incredibly high number of graduates but there’s a translation exercise between the degree they study and an understanding of the jobs that are then open to them. We need to change the way we market to students with careers and outcomes. We’ve always talked about a linear perspective on careers, however we need to focus more on skill-sets needed and experience beyond the degree.”
Robert Wickham, Regional VP, Innovation & Digital Transformation at Salesforce encouraged attendees to be louder and celebrate the successes that Australia already has.
“From a business perspective, no one has been recognised as Australian of the year for the past two decades. Once we start celebrating our successful people and businesses we will create role models for our future talent to look up to.”
Caitriona Staunton, Head of Recruitment Atlassian said 50% of jobs in the next ten years will be in the tech industry and, as a result, Australia needs to do more future-gazing.
“We need to make sure we’re working tech into plans to safeguard our quality of life and our kids quality of life,” she said.
“Australia needs to work on its brand and showcase the great business and tech culture.”
Staunton claimed there was not enough tech talent in Australia to fill the roles required at Atlassian and Jason Hosking, Co-Founder of Red Garage Ventures agreed that bringing international talent to Australia was a necessity.
“We need to reconsider the country’s visa situation – my co-founder is from Iceland with a PHD and we still haven’t been able to gain his PR,” he said.
“Our company’s international talent are beacons to attract local graduates and train them and how we compete as a start-up.”
Concluding the event, the panellists agreed that it was imperative for Australia to start marketing itself as a tech destination and showcasing local talent and business success stories to the world.
Tara Sinclair, Chief Economist at Indeed, said “Australia is well positioned to lead and come up with solutions to address the job and talent shortage.
“The changes in the job market don’t look to be slowing down. Luckily, history has shown that there is not a limited number of jobs out there. New kinds of jobs are emerging every day. Rather than try to protect the jobs of the past, let’s train and prepare our workforce for the jobs of the future.’