New Survey Suggests New Zealand is at Serious Risk of Ruining its Digital Future

A major new national digital skills survey says that New Zealand is at serious risk of ruining its digital future which will impact on education, businesses, and the national economy.

The substantial national survey paints a picture of lost opportunity, highlighting that New Zealand is facing a concerning digital skills mismatch impacting on the growth of the economy.

The Digital Skills Aotearoa survey, to be released in Wellington later today, says not enough Kiwis choose lucrative digital tech careers and there is often a mismatch between what the education system provides and what the tech ecosystem needs.

The report is published by the Digital Skills Forum which was established in 2015 to bring together the government agencies focused on digital skills and the tech industry, which is redefining the world Kiwis live in.

“In a world where digital technology underpins every part of our society and economy, we must not risk our digital future,” said Forum member and NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller.

“Without upskilling, New Zealand is at serious risk of falling behind. Let’s not look back in another three years with regret. This latest research clearly illustrates how the digital skills issue is manageable, it’s not an insurmountable problem.”

There were 4462 new digital technology jobs created in 2019 and more than 40,000 year 13 students taking relevant NCEA subjects for pathways into digital tech careers.

“But very few, less than two thousand, went onto relevant tertiary study and of those that graduated many struggled to get internships. On top of this, less than 10 percent of corporate training budgets are spent on digital technology upskilling,” continued Muller.

“Digital skills have never been more important. New Zealanders of every age and background increasingly need to be capable of designing and controlling digital technologies. We need a vibrant pipeline of skills. This isn’t a new phenomenon, but the implications of the pandemic have heightened the role of technology in all our lives and have, for the medium term at least, diminished our ability to continue to import talent from overseas.”

Muller went on to explain that the challenge in 2021 is less around the depth of the pipeline but how to better match digital skills with the organisations that need them. These companies and government organisations must invest in their digital talent from entry-level, right through to senior-level roles.

“The COVID issue has been a huge challenge for New Zealand. The next test is economic recovery, especially after the largest fall in GDP in the country’s history,” said Muller.

“Tourism, international education and hospitality have all been hit hard, and unemployment has increased. To help meet this economic challenge we need to equip more New Zealanders with digital skills so they can operate in the fastest-growing part of the New Zealand economy.

“Just as technology is critical in fighting COVID-19, it will be equally vital as all Kiwis work to rebuild. A digitally skilled workforce and innovative home-grown businesses can help create jobs, improve services, tackle social challenges and power our economic growth in the years ahead. But only if we make the right decisions and investments today.”