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The plan for digital tech skills and talent

Paul Matthews, ITP Chief Executive. 15 October 2021, 3:14 pm
The plan for digital tech skills and talent

We're really excited to be releasing the final cut of the skills and talent plan next week, as part of the significant work going into the Digital Tech Industry Transformation Plan.

Take a sneak peek here [pdf]

The Plan for Digital Tech Skills and Talent draws on a huge amount of work previously completed in the Digital Skills Aotearoa report, supplemented by addition research and with a focus on what needs to happen to enable faster scale-up and transformation of our industry.

Not surprisingly, a huge part of the answer is in sorting out our skills and talent pipeline. There's a balance between developing talent here and immigration, however things are even worse now, given the immigration pipeline has been so disrupted by Covid.

The Skills Plan significantly explored the talent pipeline to identify where the real problems lie: 

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The reality isn't as linear of course, however the evidence paints a fascinating picture of the challenges our industry faces. The report includes 24 evidence-based conclusions, before focusing in on the 10 groups of Actions we need to take to unblock the pipeline:

  • Action 1: A strong strategic focus on reskilling and upskilling
  • Action 2: Rapidly expand pathway options to industry
  • Action 3: Refine the Immigration system to be more targeted
  • Action 4: Industry to step up and lead the transformation
  • Action 5: Māori to be a crucial partner in skills
  • Action 6: Expand the Tech Story to a local audience
  • Action 7: An All-of-Government strategic approach to skills
  • Action 8: Increased support for digital tech learning in schools
  • Action 9: Radically re-defined standardised job "roles"
  • Action 10: Strengthen the tech sector through greater diversity

The rationale, detail and initiatives under each of these are contained in the report, and it's also clear that there is no silver bullet - the only way we can actually fix the skills problem is by addressing all of these areas.

Two immediate areas that come out of this, contained in Actions 1 and 2, are getting more strategic about reskilling and upskilling, and more pathways to industry - such as Apprenticeships, Apprenticeship Degrees, and expanded opportunities for Internships.

The Immigration System comes under the spotlight in Action 3. Immigration is crucial for our industry and likely always will be, however the pre-Covid level (around 55% of all new roles in tech) had become unsustainable, and our industry is being damaged now by the fact we can't maintain anything near that rate in a Covid environment.

More immigration is the short-term answer, but it can't be the long-term one. It's abundantly clear that local talent development - both in terms of the pathways into our industry (through school, tertiary, other professions etc) and of developing the people in our industry now, is crucial to scalability. This will be hard, as it partly means industry taking a more mature approach to talent development than the current practice of just trying to "buy in" the skills we need, when we need them, via immigration or competitors.

This is partly why the industry can't just leave it to Government, or sit back and throw stones at the education sector - we need to be the change we want to see (as per Action 4). 

Action 5 focuses on the role Māori should play in our industry, and how the current approach really has failed Māori. Look no further than the participation rates of Māori in our industry to see what we mean. We think it's important for Māori to be in charge of their own destiny, and that will mean both structural and cultural change in our industry.

Actions 6 look at how we market ourselves as an industry and calls for us to get organised about it, to attract more great people into our great profession. A lot of this work has already started and we're seeing some great strategic alignment across the industry as we look to how we "sell" our industry to the next generation.

Action 7 looks at the role Government itself can play, as the largest employer of tech talent in New Zealand (notwithstanding the fractured nature of Government agencies), and Action 8 focuses on what needs to happen to lift the quality of digital tech education and awareness in schools. Some great discussions happening in this space too.

Action 9 looks at how we interpret roles and jobs in our industry, with a plan around defining roles from both a skills-basis (in ways that align with other sectors) and also in a way that helps people from all backgrounds understand what skills they may actually have. Obviously every company will do their own thing; but if we use a common framework (SFIA) and there's strong guidance around role definitions, it will help our industry as a whole get on top of skills development faster.

And last but certainly not least, Action 10 looks at diversity through a few different lenses. This is an area we don't particularly shine in whichever lens we look through, whether it be cultural diversity, gender diversity, or even experience and thought diversity. We also have massive opportunities around those with disabilities and the opportunity to harness some tremendous talent with far less downside than many employers seem to think.

 

Where to from here?

The Skills and Talent plan is a plan. A massive amount of research and work has gone into identifying and isolating what needs to happen to unlock the skills and talent pipeline in New Zealand, but it's no good if it just stays as a plan. 

As someone said recently, 1% for plan, 99% for implementation and now we switch our focus to actually putting the plan in place. We've had extremely good engagement across both Government, Industry and the Education Sector, and a broad coalition is growing of those who want to help make this happen, and happen fast. 

But it'll only happen if that broad coalition grows. Some examples, we're in the process of working with Ministry of Education on contextualizing it from the Education perspective, Ministry of Health (and the workforce) around looking at it from a health perspective, the cybersecurity community around what it means for security, Dept of Internal Affairs about contextualizing it from an all-of-govt perspective, and far more as well.

But… what does it mean in the context of startups? What does it mean in the context of software? What does it mean in the context of regional needs?

This is a credible plan, forms part of the overall Industry Transformation Plan, and has broad consensus. Government has engaged and will resource many parts of it. The Education Sector is responding and will work with industry to make it work. But we also need the industry and employers to understand what this means for them and what they need to do so we, as a whole, can get out of the skills mess we're currently in.

So my plea is this: Wherever you and and whatever you're doing, read the plan, understand the plan, act on the plan. This is our chance - let's work together to make it a reality.

 

And a word of thanks

And lastly, I just want to put in a massive thanks to the Skills Steering Group, who put in a lot of work to ensure the plan had substance and a strong evidential basis. And to many within Government, especially Robyn Henderson at MBIE but many others as well (both officials and Minister Clark) who have enabled and are in the process of helping resource and empower this work.

And most of all, to the hundreds of people and organisations who have contributed to putting this together. It's been a huge group and we've heard from hundreds of people through huis, consultations, direct discussions, expertise contribution and so much more.

The mahi hasn't finished, in fact it's just getting started. But we now have a plan. Let's sort out the skills and talent pipeline once and for all.

Take a sneak peek at the Plan for Skills and Talent now


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