Making sure small businesses have the tech skills for the future

digital technoloigy

It’s easy to pass off talk of the skills shortage as a by-product of the border closures, but the reality is Australia has been facing a skills shortage for a very long time.

For years, Australia has desperately needed a more tech savvy and digitally literate workforce. In fact, by 2025 Australia will need 156,000 new technology workers, as nearly all jobs now require digital skills. A skills shortage isn’t just about the highly trained software engineers from abroad that are unable to arrive in Australia. The shortage also includes the tech skills that are lacking in our current workforce.

Digitally savvy workforces are an urgent requirement in today’s world with businesses across Australia’s economy feeling the pinch. A digital savvy workforce doesn’t mean every employee must be able to code or be a cyber wunderkind. It means that people have a base level of digital literacy to be able to enter and perform well in the workplace.

Without a workforce that has a base level of tech know-how, businesses are unable to adopt technology that can improve their output. For small businesses, this can be devastating to their competitiveness and survival. If a business cannot adopt technology that improves their productivity or helps automate a process, they will struggle to keep pace with their competitors and with their customers’ demands. Small businesses must be on the front foot by ensuring their workforce not only have the baseline skills needed for their job but also invest in up-skilling their workers for the future.

It’s often forgotten that a large portion of the current workforce aren’t digital natives. These people didn’t grow up surrounded by screens or may not have had access to them until much later in life. Addressing this is an important step in improving Australia’s skills shortage. These individuals all have a lot to contribute to the economy, but it requires a considered effort from business and Government to ensure they have the necessary skills.

Thankfully, the federal government recognises the importance of digital skills, with investments being made in the Digital Economy Strategy such as digital skill cadetships and advanced scholarships for emerging technologies – but more needs to be done. It’s important that the Government also plays a role and considers workers who may have lost their jobs and are now reconsidering their skills or their industry of choice. It’s important these people have opportunities available to re-skill.

Creating a tech savvy workforce requires organisations to invest in their people to ensure they have the skills necessary to contribute effectively to the organisation. This can be as simple as investing in easy-to-use technology that upskills people on basic software like the Microsoft Office Suite. For small businesses, investing in up-skilling the workforce doesn’t need to be a price prohibitive exercise. There are plenty of affordable solutions out there that can help people upskill. There’s also the added benefit of fostering a stronger connection between employer and employee from investing in the individual worker. According to ELMO’s Employee Sentiment Index, career development and training was rated in the top ten things people look for in a new employer. By investing in this for their current workforce, businesses can engender a greater connection between employee and employer.

From improving a company’s competitiveness to increasing productivity, investing in digital skills is not just about powering the bounce back from the pandemic. It’s important in creating an equitable society that gives everyone the potential to contribute to the economy.