New Zealand is at serious risk of ruining its digital future, according to a new national digital skills survey.
This will impact on education, businesses and the national economy.
The Digital Skills Aotearoa 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 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.
The survey 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.
According to forum member and NZTech chief executive Graeme Muller, in a world where digital technology underpins every part of our society and economy, we must not risk our digital future.
"Without upskilling, New Zealand is at serious risk of falling behind," he says.
"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% of corporate training budgets are spent on digital technology upskilling.
"Digital skills have never been more important," says Muller.
"New Zealanders of every age and background increasingly need to be capable of designing and controlling digital technologies."
Muller says a "vibrant pipeline of skills" is required.
"This isn't a new phenomenon. But the implications of the COVID-19 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," he says.
"The challenge in 2021 is less around the depth of the pipeline but how we can 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."
Muller says issues from COVID-19 have 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," he says.
"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," Muller says.
"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," he says.
"But only if we make the right decisions and investments today."