According to a digital skills survey by NZTech, New Zealand is going through a digital crisis right now.
NZTech, one of the organizations responsible for articulating this skill crisis in the tech ecosystem, has collected several pieces of data to prove the vacuum created by the lack of digital skills. The country as a whole is scrambling for solutions right now, with the situation being aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Around 4,000 to 5,000 tech professionals have immigrated to New Zealand in the last five years. The COVID-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns has slowed the pace of NZ’s digital growth and revival of the country’s economy is in question.
NZTech Chief Executive, Graeme Muller has pointed out that the survey indicates that the 235 respondents to the survey so far have almost 2,000 open jobs they are struggling to recruit for right now. Among the respondents are New Zealand-owned global tech firms, game development studios, multinational and regional IT service providers, high-tech manufacturers, health boards, banks, universities, and agricultural businesses.
There are over 20,000 high-tech firms in New Zealand which create huge demand for digital skills. Muller estimated that there are about 10,000 open roles in the market currently.
The ramifications are such that 60% of the respondents are incapable of accepting new work and 20% of them are not able to finish or execute their ongoing digitisation projects and processes.
Betraying the severity of the situation, Muller said that, “We hope that more New Zealanders will start considering tech as a career for themselves or their kids, given the large number and type of well-paid tech roles on offer with the median salaries now over $100,000 a year. The variety of jobs available is enormous ranging from creative to analytical and in companies right across New Zealand, so there is something for everyone. Meanwhile, we are calling on the government to take the digital skills shortages seriously if they want to avoid an economic slowdown.”
NZTech is working with the Ministry of Education to ramp up digital education and encourage kiwi kids to choose the digital sector as their career pathway. But it also has to be taken into account that this is a slow and gradual process that will take years to build up the national digital talent. In order to take on interns and graduates, companies will need more experienced staff to mentor them. That again points towards the difficulty in accessing experienced international IT workers (given the COVID crisis)
Muller goes on to say that, “The rapidly growing New Zealand tech sector is being hampered. Technology is on track to become New Zealand’s largest export sector before 2030. The covid pandemic has highlighted the comparative advantage weightless exports now offer over bulky commodities and yet the Government’s immigration policies don’t reflect this.”