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One million Kiwi workers need digital upskilling in the next year alone - AWS

Peter Griffin, Editor. 22 March 2022, 1:18 pm

New Zealand faces a serious deficit in digital skills that will require one million workers, 35% of the workforce, to be upskilled in the next 12 months, as rapid digital transformation creates the need for new skills.

The Building Digital Skills for the Changing Workforce report, undertaken by economics consulting firm AlphaBeta and commissioned by Amazon Web Services, identified the ability to use cloud-based tools and cybersecurity as the two most in-demand skills areas.

That's based on a survey of around 1,000 New Zealand employees and 300 organisations, chosen to best reflect the make-up of our workforce. Only 25% of organisations surveyed had fully implemented digital skills training programmes though 97% saw a need for it.

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The most in-demand digital skills

It suggests a major digital skills gap exists that urgently needs to be addressed. 

AlphaBeta's Fraser Thompson said the New Zealand skills gap was "at the higher end" of countries surveyed and was down to two reasons. We are big users of digital tools across the economy so our need is greater, but employers also perceive a big gap between our existing skill set and what we need to stay productive and competitive.

"It's a combination of the structure of the economy, requiring digital skills, and also that kind of perceived gap analysis between where we are and where we need to get to over the coming year," says Thompson.

While 80% of workers surveyed reported that they needed more digital skills, two major barriers stand in their way - a lack of time and a lack of awareness of the options for upskilling.

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Source: AlphaBeta

That, says AlphaBeta, points to the need for better options for digital skills training, such as micro-credential schemes, to allow on the job upskilling and certification on the job in days or weeks, rather than the months or years required to undertake a tertiary qualification.

"As the AWS research findings show, we are, as a country, quite in danger of falling behind if we don't take really seriously the action needed to ensure that both our current workforce and our future workforce have the relevant skills," Greg Davidson, group CEO at Datacom, told a press conference at the launch of the report.

"No one organisation can solve this," he added. 

"The corporate sector can't look to the tertiary institutions to do it by themselves. Because the rate with which the need for skills is evolving, it's just too quick. So it falls on all of us, collectively, the tech industry, tertiary providers and government, to work together in order to make the scale-up happen."

Datacom was taking graduates from the AWS re/Start programme, which offers a free, full-time, 12-week course for the unemployed or underemployed to prepare for a career in cloud computing. AWS re/Start partners with tertiary education provider Te Pūkenga to develop local talent, with a particular push to get candidates from Māori and Pasifika communities onto the course.

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The barriers to upskilling

Kāpuhipuhi Wellington Uni-Professional, which delivers Victoria University's non-degree teaching, had partnered with Internal Affairs to create micro-credentials for digital accessibility and cybersecurity skills that were on offer to government sector workers and private sector employees alike.

Those employers surveyed suggested that digital skilling was worth the investment. While 91% reporting improved employee productivity, 86% said they were able to fast-track their digitisation goals, 79% achieved cost efficiencies, 80% reported higher employee retention, and 76% were seeing increased revenue.

The results suggest an appetite for enabling employees to upskill, but a need for easier pathways to more advanced skills and learning.

You can read the full Building Digital Skills for the Changing Workforce report here.


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