The future of a prosperous Australia is tied to its digitally skilled workforce. That means we not only need a strong population of technology professionals, but also workers across a range of job functions and industries with the digital skills they need to be innovative and efficient; and to succeed locally and globally.

New research from AlphaBeta, commissioned by Amazon Web Services (AWS), shows Australia will require an additional 6.5 million newly-skilled and reskilled digital workers by 2025 to meet future demand for technology skills. That’s 79 per cent more digitally skilled workers than we have today.

The report, Unlocking APAC’s Digital Potential: Changing Digital Skills Needs and Policy Approaches, found that by providing products and services, supporting the development of new technology, and generating local employment, the technology sector currently contributes about AU$122 billion to the Australian economy, which is around 6.6%[1] of the country’s GDP. By 2030, that contribution is expected to grow to about AU$207 billion[2] per year, with the right policy settings and digital skills training.

Our entire economy has been impacted by the growth in demand for digital skills. The research found that the average Australian worker will need to gain an additional seven new digital skills by 2025 to keep pace with technological change. Examples of these skills include the ability of a business owner to create digital content to promote their business on social media, or when a plumber collects and analyses water usage data from smart meters.

Digital skills are highly prevalent in the workplace today. 64 per cent of Australian workers already use them, with around 20 per cent of workers possessing advanced skills such as the ability to customise digital solutions for business needs, or create new digital tools and software applications to address more complex organisational goals. This means we are already using technology to innovate in our rapidly growing digital economy. But clearly more digitally skilled workers are needed.

Remaining competitive in the digital economy will require a shift in how Australians train for the jobs of the future. Acquiring new digitals skills needs to be done in days and weeks, rather than months and years. Many will do more training once they start their career, rather than in the years it will take them to get qualified before entering the workforce. To meet the needs of lifelong or lifetime learning, employers need to change their approach to re-skilling employees, and create space and structure for them to train in new skills. Industries need to scale up courses for their stakeholders, and governments need to make sure that funding frameworks encourage lifelong learning.

At AWS, we are committed to helping students and individuals become future cloud-skilled leaders in the workplace. In December 2020, AWS announced it would help 29 million people around the world grow their tech skills by 2025 through free, AWS-designed cloud computing training. We are working alongside industry, government, and the community to address this challenge through multiple avenues.

We have already taken steps to help solve the retraining challenge in Australia. For example, AWS re/Start offers people who are unemployed or underemployed, access to a free 12-week full time skills training program to start them on the path to becoming digital professionals. The AWS re/Start program has a specific focus on helping people from underrepresented backgrounds build careers in technology. AWS collaborates with Indigenous Australian-owned technology enterprise Goanna Education to help graduates from the program transition into the workforce.

Another example is how the Sunshine Coast Council and TAFE Queensland, with support from AWS, has rolled out free Next Level digital upskilling courses[3]. These specialist digital skills training courses are available online and on-demand for Sunshine Coast students, startup businesses, and residents interested in building new, job-ready skills. The courses offer skills training in cloud computing, cyber security, startups, and application development.

Training 6.5 million Australian digital workers by 2025 is a monumental task, but there are many benefits by meeting this challenge. We have seen how advances in cloud computing, machine learning, and other emerging technologies have led to rapid change. To ensure we capitalise on the benefits of rapidly changing innovation and technology, we have to lift our base-line of digital skills and find ways to accelerate the pace at which we learn them.

We need to move beyond business as usual, and create the conditions for success where skills can be acquired in hours, and credentials acquired within days. Australians have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our workforce, and having the right digital skills for every worker will be a critical driver in enabling us to drive future prosperity.

[1] AlphaBeta, Australia’s Digital Opportunity, https://digi.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Australias-Digital-Opportunity.pdf, September 2019

[2] Ibid.

[3] Next Level is a series of specialist digital skills training courses available online and on-demand to build new, job-ready skills in the areas of cloud computing, cybersecurity, startups, and application development. Sunshine Coast Council has developed these courses in collaboration with AWS and TAFE Queensland and supported by Silicon Coast. Source: https://nextlevelsc.com.au/