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New Zealand Facing A Digital Skills Crisis

While all sectors are experiencing skills shortages, a survey underway is finding critical digital skills shortages impacting all parts of the New Zealand economy.

NZTech, the organisation tasked with providing the voice for the technology ecosystem, has been collecting input via a digital skills survey which is revealing a desperate need to find solutions. For the last five years between 4000 to 5000 tech professionals have immigrated to New Zealand. But Covid has stopped this and it is choking the pace of New Zealand’s recovery.

NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller says the survey, which has been in the market a mere two weeks, shows that the 235 respondents so far have almost 2,000 open jobs they are struggling to recruit right now. The respondents include New Zealand owned global tech firms and game development studios, local and multinational IT service providers, high tech manufacturers, agribusinesses, universities, health boards and banks.

“With over 20,000 high tech firms in New Zealand, plus most users of digital technology attempting to become more digital, the demand for digital skills has well and truly outstretched supply”, says Muller. Who is estimating there could be as many as 10,000 open roles in the market this month.”

The impact is huge with almost 60 percent of respondents unable to take on new work and 20 percent unable to complete digitisation projects already underway. There are also worrying signs of the impact of these skills shortages on staff with reports of stress and health and well-being issues increasing.

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New Zealand is desperate for more highly skilled overseas tech workers to fill this digital skills shortage.

“You can’t expect to go from 5000 international workers to zero and expect business as usual”, Muller says.

“We have been working hard with the Ministry of Education to encourage more Kiwi kids into tech career pathways, but it will take years to build up the local talent pool.

“To make matter worse, to take on more interns and graduates companies need more experienced staff to mentor them, so difficulty in accessing experienced international IT workers is a double edged sword.

“If we want to improve productivity, deliver a better health system, create high value jobs and help companies recover from covid by being more efficient and accessing international markets, we need to increase the number of digital technology professionals in New Zealand to enable it.

“New Zealand is seen as an attractive destination right now and there are great opportunities for us to attract some of the best tech talent from around the world, but the window is closing fast.

“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.

“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.”

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