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29 Nov 2023

Media releases

New guide offers solutions to tech talent gap

Report finds recognising refugees’ and migrants’ skills would boost economy.

An employer guide released today outlines ways employers can take to fill the growing tech skills gap by maximising employment opportunities for skilled refugee and migrant professionals, who are an untapped solution to the rapidly growing tech skills gap.

The Billion Dollar Benefit: Welcoming Tech Talent guide, developed by non-profit SSI and the Australian Computer Society (ACS), offers practical tips for employers to recruit and retain newcomer talent to the tech sector, which needs around 60,000 tech workers to meet the industry’s growing demands.

Just 7,000 students graduate with IT degrees each year, leaving employers quick to look overseas for tech talent, but there is already a skilled and motivated workforce closer to home, according to SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis.

“Talent is distributed equally, but opportunity is not. Many migrants and refugees in Australia are highly skilled and bring a wealth of tech expertise, qualifications and experience from their countries of origin. They just need the opportunity to showcase those tech skills in workplaces,” Ms Roumeliotis said.

“While tech is the fourth most common pre-migration qualification held by migrants in Australia, only 2 per cent of skilled migrants are currently working in the sector.”

“This is a missed opportunity for everyone, and the Welcoming Tech Talent guide serves as a practical toolkit for businesses to embrace the full diversity of tech talent in Australia.”

Syrian-born Abd Almassih Alsaad is one of the many refugee IT professionals who have faced significant barriers when pursuing his profession in Australia. Despite a more than 20-year career in IT as a programmer and business owner, and experience with prominent corporations and government entities, Abd has been unsuccessful in gaining even unpaid positions.

“I’ve found that many IT employers won’t acknowledge a degree from overseas, thinking it’s not strong enough, and often insist on a local degree from Australia,” he said. “I am even being rejected for volunteering unpaid roles in the industry.”

Siobhan Casey, ACS Chief Growth Officer added: “this report highlights the contribution migrants make to the Australian economy. In the tech sector, with our chronic shortage of skilled workers, we need to ensure we are making the most of the talents and experience of recent arrivals from overseas.

“Australia is facing a skills crisis and evidence demonstrates it takes 3.5months for a domestic student to secure their first role and up to 12 months for an international skilled migrant.  Employers need to access the skilled talent sooner to ensure Australia’s economic prosperity.

“As we highlighted in our 2023 Digital Pulse survey of the nation’s tech skills, we are facing a major crisis as Australia struggles to meet the challenges of the AI-driven economy and we need all parts of the community – government, business and education – to come together to come up with a co-ordinated strategy that realises the potential of all Australians.”

The guide focuses on businesses and employers encouraging a culture of questioning unconscious biases, focusing on skills – rather than specific qualifications, engaging experts to roll out diversity training, using inclusive language in recruitment ads, and other practical ways to become welcoming workplaces.

The employer guide has been endorsed by LinkedIn, as part of the company’s efforts to create economic opportunity for every member of the workforce, including refugees and migrants.

Key messages from the Billion Dollar Benefit report:

  1. Australian tech employers are in a race to fill the 60,000 skilled positions needed to keep up the booming sector’s workforce demands.
  2. Skilled refugees and migrants are a largely untapped pool of tech talent that can fill critical skill shortages and bolster the potential growth of the sector.
  3. By implementing ten simple tips, the tech sector can unleash the full economic potential of skilled refugees and migrants and, in doing so, expand the growth horizons for the entire industry
  4. Migrants and refugees are strong contributors to the economy and productive employees, with 85% of Australian employers rating refugee staff as equally or more productive than the wider workforce, but many have unrealised potential.
  5. We all benefit when all migrants are able to reach their full economic and professional potential in Australia.

Statistics from the report:

  1. 60,000 tech workers are needed in Australia each year
  2. Only 7,000 students graduate with IT degrees in Australia each year
  3. 1 in 3 occupations experiencing shortages are related to ICT
  4. 4th most common pre-migration qualification held by migrants in Australia is IT (12%)
  5. Only 2% of skilled migrants in Australia work in the ICT sector
  6. 1 in 4 permanent skilled migrants work below their skill level
    85%+ of Australian employers report their refugee employees are as productive or more productive than the rest of their workforce

Media inquiries:

SSI

Jordan wood, Senior Communications Officer.

M: 0403 082 926 E: jwood@ssi.org.au

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