According to a study by Amazon Web Services, more than one million New Zealand workers will need digital skills training over the next year.
Dr Fraser Thompson, head of research at Amazon, said the workers would come not just from the tech sector, but from across the economy.
“It’s not just computer training we’re talking about. The vast majority of digitally skilled workers work across the economy in manufacturing, agriculture, and use their digital skills in their day-to-day work,” said Thompson.
More than 650,000 of those who needed training were workers who already had some digital skills but would need to retrain.
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The other 350,000 workers had no digital skills and needed to be fully trained, he said.
The two most in-demand skills were cloud computing and cybersecurity, which reflected current business needs over the past few years, he said.
Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services, such as storage, networking, and analytics, over the Internet, or “the cloud”.
“We see a backlog in digital skills training in schools and in the workplace. As the focus of training changes, we may be a few years behind workforce trends. Closing this gap is really important. said Thompson.
NZ Tech Alliance chief executive Graeme Muller said while the number of workers needing training was significant, he was not surprised to see such demand for digital skills.
“There is no silver bullet to this global digital skills shortage, but if New Zealand can accelerate our local response, we will gain tremendous benefits, including higher value-added jobs, better employee satisfaction and high-value exports,” Muller said.
A significant barrier was that many employers did not realize the skills workers needed until they were desperate, he said.
He said the government’s digital recovery initiative was a good start, but he hoped the digital industry transformation plan, consulted by the Department for Business, Innovation and Jobs, would put the emphasis on the needs of the sector.
“We must pull all available levers to achieve this.” Including marketing to encourage more people to want digital skills and create new training opportunities.
Game Developers Association President Chelsea Rapp said while her industry has long been crying out for more skilled workers, digital skills are needed across the economy.
But there were barriers to accessing training for much of the population, she said.
“There are a lot of people who are not able to take the time to learn digital skills. People in rural communities may have problems accessing the internet or other digital infrastructure. If we want to close the digital skills gap, we need to get everyone on board,” Rapp said.
But a perceived barrier, the cost of education to acquire digital skills, was no longer as significant as many people thought, she said.
“There’s a big misconception that you need to have a four-year degree and a student loan to work in tech. It changes quickly. Tech employers are looking for people with life experience who can be trained.
“We hired people who took a four-month coding course. As long as they can pass our coding test and are eager to learn, we onboard them,” Rapp said.
Te Pūkenga, New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, Stephen Town, Chief Executive, said employers interested in digital skills training for workers want it in small pieces.
“They want a short course that fills a specific skills gap that employers are experiencing.” Rather than a full qualifying course, Town said.
Employers were asking about on-the-job training, e-learning or other training methods that didn’t keep workers out of the office for too long, he said.