Talent is an important part of any business. For tech businesses, where high value products are created almost exclusively from human intellectual capital, talent is particularly critical. A shortage of talent therefore risks severely limiting growth in any emerging tech sector. People with the skills and experience necessary to rapidly grow a startup from a small group of founders into hundreds or even thousands of employees are rare. That rarity has led to fierce global competition for the world’s best talent. Australian startups are not just competing with each other; they are vying with the world’s most promising young companies and established global tech firms.
There are two key ways to inject talent into our startup ecosystem: education, and migration. Education can help us generate a pool of talent locally, building a digitally enabled workforce in the medium term. Migration can help us attract international talent from overseas in key roles in the immediate term. But for either immigration or education to be effective we must first have a clear understanding of which skills are missing.
This report was commissioned to add a layer of detail and depth to our understanding of the key talent shortages in Australia. It seeks to pinpoint those skills which are in immediate high demand, develop an understanding about the broader talent context of the Australian technology sector and profile some of the archetypal roles that are in high demand on the cutting edge of the technology sector.
• Critical skills gaps right now include:
◦ Coders – including full stack developers, front-end, back-end, and mobile
◦ Startup-focused sales roles – account managers and business development managers
◦ User experience designers
• Additionally, emerging skills gaps are likely to develop in the following areas:
◦ Product managers
◦ Data scientist
• There is strong global competition for highly-skilled technology roles, and companies in more mature ecosystems are already recruiting strongly for talent in Australia’s growth areas
• Particular high-skill roles have the potential to ‘unlock’ growth, and therefore local employment, for Australian tech firms
This report takes a novel approach to identifying Australia’s tech startup talent gap. We combined in-depth interviews with successful scale-up founders with a custom LinkedIn data set looking at roles and hiring among young Australian tech firms. We then looked at the same data from a range of other countries around the world.
This process yielded interesting results. As expected, there was a reasonable degree of overlap between positions scale-up founders told us were hard to fill and the key roles that emerged from the LinkedIn data set. But the much stronger correlation was between the responses we had from scale-up founders and the data we collected from more mature startup ecosystems including Israel, Switzerland and the US. The scale-up founders, who are in a relatively small group of more mature Australian tech firms, are likely acting as lead indicators of local demand for skills in the years ahead. This provides a potentially powerful insight to help businesses and policy makers get ahead of the demand curve.
We examined migrant hiring patterns from international peers including New Zealand, Canada and Finland, alongside data from countries with top-tier technology ecosystems, including the US, Germany and Israel. Australia’s current level of imported talent as a percentage of total workforce is very close to the mean of the nations we analysed. We also found that young tech firms from all the countries we analysed were looking for similar roles to recruit internationally, and that those roles were typically highly skilled, high-impact positions.
This indicates there is strong global competition for many highly-skilled roles in technology.
Both the quantitative and qualitative data showed that more traditional roles such as marketing, sales and customer service play an important role in the employee profile of young tech companies. Yet these roles were significantly less likely to be directly cited as difficult to hire for, and less likely to be imported from overseas amongst the companies we analysed.
This indicates that some highly-skilled positions serve as bottlenecks for growth, and therefore act as enablers for local jobs when hired.
The final section of the report looks at four archetypal positions that have emerged from the research as critical to the high growth technology sector. The aim is twofold; to outline the role within the organisation and show the value provided by these positions, as well as to provide a career pathway by tracing the skills, areas of study and previous experience were typical of those who currently hold these positions in the marketplace.
The report profiles a data scientist, product manager, UX designer and a business development manager as high-demand positions in the startup ecosystem.