New Zealand Government creates a roadmap for New Zealand tech sector

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As IT recruiters and businesses continue to face a shortage of skilled workers in New Zealand, “ICT Security Specialist” is appearing on Immigration New Zealand’s list of long-term skill shortages. The New Zealand government has responded with a roadmap to close the gap in critical digital skills that is impacting the entire economy.

With the technology sector growing at almost twice the rate of the rest of the economy, contributing an estimated $6.6 billion to the economy in 2019, the digital technology sector is now one of the country’s top earners.

At the time of writing this there are currently 14,388 vacancies under Information Technology with 255 of those being senior Cyber Security analysts.

To keep up with this demand, between 3500 and 4500 IT visas were issued each year for five consecutive years. But with the closing of borders due to Covid-19, the major source of advanced skills and experience needed to fill these roles was turned off. Further adding to the increased skill shortage in an industry that continues to grow.

Identifying pressing issues

In early 2021 The Skills Workstream assembled a report to identify what the pressing issues were and stated that we have an over reliance on immigration, with over 55 percent of roles being filled with international talent vs domestic and noted this was simply unsustainable.

It also listed that there is a significant mismatch between the skills available and the skills needed by our industry. It’s not just about more people. And most importantly, if we want to solve the skills challenges in our sector, Industry, Government, and the Education Sector must work together, all play a crucial role, and the level of engagement and investment needs to increase significantly.

On 14 February, 2022 the Government proposed major changes in the ways it currently supports the tech sector’s growth.

The digital technologies sector draft Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) aims to address how the Government can work with the industry to increase the sector’s contribution to New Zealand’s gross domestic product (GDP), as well as increasing export revenue, creating more job opportunities, and improving diversity.

Alongside the announcement that there will be 600 border exceptions for tech workers in identified roles being: ICT management, ICT security specialist, software and application programmers and multimedia specialist an action plan has been developed to address the principles found in the Skills Workstream report.

The government proposed it will address the findings in the following ways:
  • By ensuring the sector can attract the skills it needs to grow all levels and that it is creating high-quality jobs for all New Zealanders, including those groups currently under-represented
  • By increasing the number of globally successful New Zealand Digital Technologies exporters, with a focus on the intellectual property producing business models of software as a service and interactive media
  • By proposing actions that empower Māori to increase their participation in the sector, as business owners, entrepreneurs and in the workforce
  • By improving international perceptions of the sector and attracting both local and international investment and talent. It will achieve this by ‘crafting and promoting a compelling story that confirms New Zealand’s world-class tech and innovation capabilities’
  • By ensuring all sectors of the economy gain greater understanding and appreciation of the economic value of data, leading to increased adoption and use of data-driven technologies, including artificial intelligence, with flow-on benefits in terms of reduced emissions and greater productivity
  • By defining New Zealand’s approach to supporting the ethical adoption of AI, helping grow a thriving AI ecosystem and ensuring the safe adoption and use of AI in New Zealand
  • By improving working relationships between the sector and government to ensure procurement delivers fair and accountable outcomes and value for money for New Zealanders. It must also be well regarded domestically and internationally for supporting innovation and the ingenuity of tech companies.

MBIE is now seeking feedback on the draft Digital Technologies ITP, including its scope, vision, and proposed action plan. An ITP is a sector-based development plan, jointly produced between industry, government, academia, and Māori, as a Te Tiriti partner. Submissions close by 5pm on 31 March, 2022.

Related: Technology resilience essential

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Mariette Tolmay
Mariette Tolmay
Mariette Tolmay is the marketing lead at Stratus Blue. She can be contacted at mariette@stratusblue.co.nz.

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