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NSW government sets its sights on digital skills

By Nick Wilson | |6 minute read

Members of industry, government, and education have made a firm commitment to ongoing digital skills development to alleviate shortages and boost NSW’s tech readiness.

“We’re not just bridging the skills gap, we’re building pathways for thousands of students, parents, and advisors to explore and embrace tech careers,” Minister for Skills, TAFE and Tertiary Education Steve Whan said as he unveiled the NSW Digital Skills and Workforce Compact at NSW Parliament House on Wednesday (29 November).

The partnership brings together representatives from industry, government, and education to promote digital careers. Though Mr Whan was quick to note the initiative is more than a plug in the wall of digital skills, the shortage certainly makes the reforms more urgent.


By 2030, the NSW digital worker shortage is projected to reach 85,000 workers, while RMIT estimated the national digital skills shortage is costing businesses $3.1 billion every year.

Let’s consider what the compact hopes to achieve and how it plans on getting there.

The compact

The 37 partners to the compact are responsible for the employment of 340,000 digital workers in NSW and 1.7 million students. Together, they will aim to increase uptake in digital training and education to patch current shortages and build a stronger digital workforce.

The program will be guided by six so-called “pillars of action.”

  1. Change the way people think about digital careers.
  2. Plug the leaks in training and careers.
  3. Drive diversity in the digital workforce.
  4. Help people move into digital training and jobs.
  5. Make training more responsive to industry needs.
  6. Use government levers to drive digital job growth.

The initiative aims to take advantage of NSW’s unique positioning as a potential leader in digital skills. As noted by Steven Worrall, chair of the NSW Skills Board, the COVID-19 pandemic made clear “how well positioned NSW is to lead the development of new and exciting advanced manufacturing capabilities, foster digital and technological innovation, and be at the forefront of emerging technologies such as generative AI”.

Digital diversity

Under the compact, a new action plan will be created every two years to guide the rollout of the initiative. Among the aims of the first action plan is a commitment to broadening diversity in NSW’s digital workforce. For instance, women make up only 29 per cent of Australia’s tech workforce, while only 0.66 per cent identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

“To meet the projected NSW shortfall of 85,000 workers in the digital industry by 2030, we need to tap into under-represented sections of the workforce,” said the NSW Department of Education.

Getting there will be a multi-stage process.

First, an “in-depth labour market analysis” will be conducted to pin subsequent actions to available data. Once the lay of the digital employment land is charted, the compact will analyse which kinds of interventions will be best suited to each target demographic. Meeting the diversity expectations of the compact will require clear, ongoing diversity metrics, said the NSW Department of Education.

“We believe that building a more diverse workforce and addressing the historical underrepresentation of women, LGBTQI+, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, people in regional and rural NSW, neurodivergent people, people with a disability and older workers will strengthen our industry.”

Building a culture

Also among the aims of the inaugural compact action plan is a commitment to changing perceptions around digital careers and pathways. Under this aim, the compact hopes to achieve another kind of diversity: that of expertise.

“Roles and opportunities in the industry are rapidly changing, and the industry needs people with diverse skills, backgrounds, experiences, and capabilities,” said the NSW Department of Education. “Importantly, the industry needs people who might never have thought of themselves as suited to ‘tech’.”

In attracting people from a broader range of expertise, progress will likely be made on other diversity goals as members of, for example, non-tech, female-led fields might be drawn into the conversation. To realise this goal, the perceptions of teachers, students, parents, industry representatives, and workers will be targeted.

A suite of targeted messaging campaigns and resources will be rolled out to tap into historically disinterested groups. At the same time, compact members will strive to raise the profile of educational services and vocational training offerings.

“The breadth and depth of opportunities in the digital sector, as well as the nature of work and the skills and capabilities it draws on, is very poorly understood in the general community,” added the NSW Department of Education.



Training is the process of enhancing a worker's knowledge and abilities to do a certain profession. It aims to enhance trainees' work behaviour and performance on the job.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.