Solving the tech skills shortage

women on square academic caps
women on square academic caps
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Australia’s technology industry is struggling to fill job vacancies at an alarming rate. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports that 27 per cent of all Australian businesses are having difficulty finding suitable staff, and with COVID-19 putting a halt on the number of skilled migrants able to enter the country, we must look closer to home to source developers, engineers and other mission critical staff. We also need to ensure that the courses they study adequately prepare them for roles in the technology industry.

Through no fault of their own, many graduates have significant gaps in their knowledge regarding software development, which often results in the newest employees at Australian technology companies needing to teach themselves programming languages, software and tools.

Instead of learning these skills on the job, education providers must empower students to apply these skills long before graduation.

Reviewing the curriculum

To prepare students for the world of work, universities need to ensure that technology graduates are being taught hands-on, practical skills as part of their study. Knowing that a system is operating seamlessly and being able to make changes to prevent outages is critical, which is why integrating observability training into the curriculum can support students to have clear oversight across IT infrastructure.

What is observability? It goes beyond monitoring and creates a visualisation of an entire software environment. When tech teams gain observability of their system, they gather actionable data that provides the “why?” of a tech issue – not just the “when” or the “what.”

Cloud adoption is continuing to rise across Australia, with COVID-19 increasing the demand for digital transformation projects that rely on the cloud. By implementing these skills into the university curriculum, the disconnect between what’s studied and what’s implemented in the workplace can be reconciled. COVID-19 has created a perfect storm where teams need to use the cloud in order to enable remote working or to deliver the products and services required by consumers. By understanding and applying principles of observability to meet this demand at the higher education level, students will be able to excel in the modern workforce.

Bridging the skills gap

RMIT Online collaborated with Deloitte Access Economics to release the Ready, Set, Upskill – Effective Training for the Jobs of Tomorrow report earlier this year. In a survey of 1,000 Australian working professionals and employers, the report found a major skills gap in digital skills across the workforce with 87 per cent of jobs now requiring these skills.

Integrating a greater range of practical technology tools into university degrees can help solve the problem of the skills gap while increasing productivity once students enter the workforce. By integrating knowledge of Python, Ruby, monitoring and observability into the classroom, students will be afforded the chance to grasp these languages and concepts instead of learning how they work when they enter the workforce.

This prepares new graduates to hit the ground running and provide excellent value for Australian tech companies while contributing to the growth of the country’s domestic technological capability.

The role of industry

Technology companies have a part to play in educating students, with many creating tools or services specifically for the student demographic. These can be integrated into formal study, or be used to hone skills outside the classroom. Examples of tools that are free or discounted to students and educators include GitHub’s student developer pack which has over 20 different developer tools and courses, New Relic University which allows students to build dashboards that oversee complex technology environments, or Atlassian’s classroom licence. By creating a bridge between the classroom and the workplace, students will learn valuable skills that will enable them to be productive in the workforce fast.

The demand for digital transformation projects across Australia is on the rise, and many tech leaders are struggling to bridge the gap between what’s being taught at university and the skills needed in the workplace. If educators and technology companies can work to embed these skills into the core curriculum, students will take these competencies to market, and become more valuable – and productive – resources to the workforce, and ultimately grow Australia’s technological capabilities as a result.

Sharryn Napier is the Regional Vice President for Australia and New Zealand at New Relic.
Napier has over 20 years of experience in the IT industry.

This article was first published by Campus Review

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