As we look at the future of our business and the work we will be doing, we are confronted with a growing problem. It is one that many other businesses are also facing – demand for highly-skilled technology talent is vastly outstripping supply.

But we are not sitting by and watching this problem unfold. We are partnering with Australian tertiary institutions to help widen the talent pipeline for the future of work.

Work, redefined

When I was 15 years old, I worked as a shipping clerk in London. My job saw me using pen and paper, punch card and computer tape. People even smoked in the office!

Last year marked my 40th year in the workforce, and as I reflect on that first job, I am reminded that it no longer exists. This is a stark reminder of the impact technological convergence, digitisation and globalisation have had on the nature of work.

I have had a front-row seat to see how technology has changed the workplace. Some roles evolve and others disappear entirely. At the same time, overall employment has increased along with productivity and efficiency, with the advent of cheaper computing power and better connectivity.

Technology will continue to drive changes in our lives and in the workplace – the real issue, then, is how we respond and prepare ourselves for the future.

As we confront the realities of a workforce that is changing faster than ever before, we must think hard about the talent pipeline for our current and future business needs.

Widening the pipeline

The problem we face as a business is a numbers game: today, we cannot find the skills we need in Australia at the scale we need them.

It is estimated Australia will have a shortfall of 60,000 skilled ICT workers in the next five years. For more global context, Australia had around 1,200 new software engineers in the last 12 months, compared to 44,000 in India. That means for every new software engineering graduate in Australia, there are 40 in India.

Australia must build more of these skills locally and as one of the country’s biggest employers we are committed to play a part in this.

One way we are doing this is by establishing a partnership program with five Australian universities to jointly develop the technology skills and capabilities Australia needs for the innovative workplaces of the future.

We have signed Memorandums of Understanding with RMIT University, University of Melbourne, UNSW Sydney, University of Sydney and University of Technology, Sydney. Under these agreements, we will work with each university to enhance student learning through placements and work-integrated experiences, research and innovation opportunities, and more development including early access to career opportunities.

By investing time, money and energy into these partnerships, we aim to provide clarity on the skills we need and create real-world opportunities for students to develop them. Together with universities, we can boost the supply of diverse technology graduates for our own workforce and the nation.

These memorandums will stay in place for at least two years and we are currently working with our university partners on the first set of priorities under the agreements.

Ultimately, we want to develop useful opportunities for students to learn from industry experts and to gain real-world experience. We want to help graduates become skilled ICT practitioners who are prepared for the workforce of the future from the moment they are handed their degree.

These partnerships will exist alongside our employee training program. Through a $25 million investment this year alone we expect 10 per cent of our workforce to develop new skills which are critical as we transform.

A diversity of talent

As we look to the future, we also have an opportunity to support greater diversity in all its forms.

The technology industry is a male-dominated space, but we are committed to ensuring the pipeline of future talent is diverse from its beginning. To do this, the partnerships will look at ways to build curiosity in technology careers and engage a broad range of people before they reach university, including high school student outreach programs.

This early outreach extends to work we are doing through our summer vacation program, and our partnership with the Pathways in Technology (P-TECH) program to give more high school students the opportunity to develop an interest and skills in technology.

Building the workforce of the future is an urgent challenge. We do not have time to be idle. Telstra is determined to be part of the solution. We look forward to a successful relationship with Australia’s top universities and the technology industry graduates that we meet through this program.