Take action to top up tech talent

Mar 22, 2024 9:55:25 AM

If you’re struggling to fill a tech position in your business, you’re not alone, but you’re also not powerless. Here, we explore the latest findings about tech talent in New Zealand and identify some things you can do to build the pipeline of expertise for yourself and the country.

A tech-savvy workforce has the potential to add $7.3 billion dollars a year to our economy, according to Gallop, yet they found talented and skilled workers were in short supply in New Zealand. Technology such as 5G, AI and robotics are growing rapidly, and more than 75% of NZ businesses say that digital skills will be important to their companies in the next five years.

Meanwhile, a new report from Tech NZ shows the ‘tech skills shortage’ may be more accurately described as a ‘tech skills mismatch’. This is because of issues happening right along the career chain, and the result is we don't have workers with the right fit for the jobs we have. NZ Tech found that the most pressing demand is for senior workers who have both advanced skills and practical experience. These roles are out of reach of career starters.

NZ’s tech pipeline has holes!

At the beginning of our talent pipeline, participation levels in NCEA technology subjects keep declining. So is participation in degree-level programmes. At the next step, the internship opportunities for new entrants are few. While it's essential that junior employees gain real-world experience, the time and cost of nurturing an intern can be a barrier. Finally, those tech workers who do advance find their skills are in demand globally. Fifty-nine per cent of IT workers say they're considering a move to a new workplace in 2024 – and this is often because they are looking for opportunities to be further upskilled.

A lack of diversity is a further barrier to enriching tech talent in New Zealand. Women, Māori, and Pacific people are significantly underrepresented in digital roles. However, companies in the top quartile of ethnic and cultural diversity were found to outperform those in the bottom quartile — by 36 per cent in profitability.

Small business can take small steps

Fixing access to talent will require collaboration and action from throughout our business ecosystem. Government, education and corporates are poised to make an impact and take the lead. However, as a small business owner, there's plenty you can do too. Here are some ideas.

1.       Consider making the most of funding and incentives to take on an apprentice or intern for your tech and digital work

The cost of having an intern or apprentice may be less than you expect if you understand the support options available to employers. For example, Work and Income New Zealand has a range of ways they can contribute to new employees, such as Flexi Wage and Mana in Mahi.

2.       Upskill your current team

One of the top reasons tech employees change jobs is because they feel they’re not developing their skills for career growth. So, offering opportunities to upskill can help slow down employee ‘churn’.

You don’t need to be an expert yourself to upskill your tech team. Self-directed learning can help workers gain certifications and skills and is often available free or at low cost through platforms such as LinkedIn Learning, Microsoft, and SalesForce. Another way to give your team leading-edge career development is to consider SFIA - Skills Framework for the Information Age. This sets benchmark skills that you can use to shape job responsibilities and descriptions. It will allow your team to build recognised and transferrable skills.

3.       Cross-train your current team

The same self-directed learning opportunities and skills framework can help your current team increase their capability as long as they have the curiosity and confidence to try. MSD’s free Digital Passport resource helps people build up core tech skills with just a little each day.

Creating a ‘safe’ learning environment is especially important for adult learners. Once we're through the education years of early life, it becomes increasingly rare for us to deliberately take on things where we know we might struggle. And it can be uncomfortable. To build confidence, you could consider looking for things that align with people's interests. Could your crochet lover become a Pinterest expert to help with marketing and go from there?

4.       Be ready to collaborate within your industry

It's likely others in your industry will share similar challenges around tech talent, so this presents an opportunity to share the load. Your industry organisation may already be working on this. Your tech workers may be able to learn and share by connecting with others in their role. For industries that use specific types of software — gaming, design, databases — opportunities for 'meeting of the minds' can help people feel valued and understood. There may also be efficiencies in training teams together.

5.       Look out for help

Building NZ’s tech talent won't just help individual businesses; it could change the fortunes of our whole economy. As a result, there are initiatives that offer support to further technology capability. A few of these include:

Digital Boost

Digital Boost is a free self-directed online learning platform packed with short videos, live events and expert advice to help you grow your business and thrive in today's fast-paced digital world.

New Zealand Tech Story – ‘See tomorrow first’

See Tomorrow First is an international marketing initiative created to present a compelling and consistent story that we can use to grow awareness of our amazing tech capability globally. As well as an offshore awareness-building campaign, the See Tomorrow First initiative includes a suite of free sales and marketing tools the whole tech sector can use to align messaging with our national story and support offshore marketing activities.


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