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Unleashing migrant tech talent to combat Australia's skills gap
Fri, 1st Dec 2023

The Billion Dollar Benefit: Welcoming Tech Talent guide, a collaborative creation of the non-profit Settlement Services International (SSI) and the Australian Computer Society (ACS), has been launched.

This new guide details innovative strategies employers can utilise to address the burgeoning tech skills gap, maximising job opportunities for skilled refugee and migrant professionals.

The newly published guide provides practical methods for employers to recruit and integrate newcomer talent into the tech industry, aiming to fill the estimated 60,000 tech worker positions needed to keep pace with the industry's escalating demands.

Surprisingly, a mere 7,000 students graduate annually with IT degrees, prompting a surge in overseas tech talent. However, SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis believes there is already a skilled and enthusiastic workforce close to home.

"Talent is distributed equally, but opportunity is not. Many migrants and refugees in Australia bring with them a wealth of tech expertise, qualifications, and experience from their countries of origin. They just need the opportunity to showcase those tech skills in workplaces," stated Ms. Roumeliotis.

The fourth most common qualification migrants possess prior to relocating to Australia is in tech, yet only 2% of skilled migrants are currently active within the tech realm. Highlighting the missed opportunities, Roumeliotis suggests the Welcoming Tech Talent guide can function as a comprehensive toolkit for businesses to truly grasp the full spectrum of Australia's diverse tech talent.

Many highly skilled refugee IT professionals, such as Syrian-born Abd Almassih Alsaad, face significant hurdles when trying to establish their careers in Australia. Despite a robust 20-year IT career boasting experience with prestigious corporations and government entities, Alsaad continues to struggle to secure even unpaid positions within the industry.

Alsaad expresses frustration with the challenges he faces in the IT job market, noting that numerous employers in Australia tend to disregard degrees obtained overseas, considering them insufficient. He highlights the common requirement for a local Australian degree in the IT field, even for unpaid volunteer roles, leading to rejections and hindering his opportunities in the industry.

"Many IT employers won't acknowledge a degree from overseas, thinking it's not strong enough, and often insist on a local degree from Australia. I am even being rejected for volunteering unpaid roles in the industry," lamented Alsaad.

ACS Chief Growth Officer Siobhan Casey emphasised the significant contributions migrants bring to the Australian economy and the urgent requirement to optimise the talents and experience of recent international arrivals, especially as the tech industry grapples with a chronic shortage of highly skilled workers.

The new guide encourages employers to question unconscious biases, focus on skills over specific qualifications, conduct diversity training, and use inclusive language in recruitment adverts, among other methods to foster welcoming workplaces.

Skilled migrants and refugees represent a largely unutilised tech talent pool capable of addressing critical skill shortages and propelling the sector's growth. By implementing ten straightforward recommendations, the tech industry can unlock the full economic potential of skilled refugees and migrants and thereby extend the growth possibilities for the entire industry.