The Tech sector in Australia is growing! It took a while, but the government finally understood that it’s time to move from industry to innovation. The policy is catching up and investors are gaining confidence. However, without finding solutions to the skills shortage in the Australian market, start-ups are going to struggle.

Meeting with VCs and start-ups on a daily basis, I note they all seem to feel the same shortage in the Australian market:

  • Technology – development, cyber security, architecture etc. The great ideas are here, but not enough skilled people to develop and implement them.
  • Sales- proactive sales methodologies, the local and global experience of software sales.
  • Commercialism- many of the founders are running their first start-up, unlike in more mature markets such as Israel and the Silicon Valley, where in many cases founders have already been involved in a few start-ups before and have learned important lessons about how to run a start-up in a commercial manner.

Adding complexity to this skills shortage are: (1) while there are more and more start-ups, not enough graduates with practical certifications and experience are entering the employment market. (2) Global technology companies entering the region are offering salaries that start-ups cannot compete with, hence it is taking longer and longer for start-ups to recruit the skills and experience they need. (3) Beyond the salary, there is still a cultural element of risk avoidance and a preference to work in a stable 9-5 organisation with a “secured” salary.

So, what can be done?

At the policy level, the government should put more emphasis on STEM education at Secondary Schools while also look into interventions, subsidising relevant professional certifications and technology courses for those who already have graduate degrees and want to move to the innovation sectors, but don’t have the right skills and knowledge.

At the start-up level, there is one way to deal with the skills shortage:

workforce planning!

Stop treating HR and recruitment as a transactional immediate task. Start planning in advance the skills you will need, when you will need these skills and when & how to start looking for them.

Without this proactive planning approach, you will find yourself recutting today the people you needed six months ago and compromising on the necessary skills, experience and cultural match.