News

Digital skills shortage fuels $2b deficit

14 September 2010

A serious shortage of skilled employees is a major contributor to a $2 billion trade deficit in Australia's digital content industry, a leading Queensland University of Technology researcher says.

Professor Greg Hearn, a researcher with the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) at QUT, said the $19 billion digital industry was suffering from a shortage of graduates with sufficient work and creative business skills.

"We do not have a shortage of talent in this country, but the lack of job skills here is causing many companies to look overseas for their talent," says Professor Hearn.

"Considering the digital industry's vital role in the economy and the fact that it employs 289,000 people, an investment in human resources is essential to develop this sector."

The digital industry includes software, computer games, digital videos, websites and animation.

Professor Hearn led CCI's "60sox project" to investigate the education-to-work transition experienced by 507 aspiring students and graduates in the digital creative industry.

He said the project found the skills deficit mainly stemed from the gap between what was taught in academia and what was practised in industry.

"There is a generally a gap between the qualifications aspiring creatives receive - and the industry-ready skills that employers are looking for," he said.

"This gives our respondents the impression they have good employability, job-specific and career skills - when the skills that they think are important are not what employers in the industry actually want."

Professor Hearn said the other main thing that hindered graduates from gaining employment was their lack of previous engagement with the industry, with only 13 per cent of the 60sox respondents having had direct contact with industry.

"Most digital graduates rely on online networks to get jobs, however, they need to know that face-to-face networking with the industry is crucial to gain both employment and skills," he said.

"You won't be able to get a mentoring relationship through Facebook.

"The industry can also help aspiring students by offering internships, mentoring relationships and by inviting students to take part in industry events."

The ARC Centre for Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) is helping to build a creative Australia through cutting edge research spanning the creative industries, media and communications, arts, cultural studies, law, information technology, education and business. It is funded through the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Media contact: Rachael Wilson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or rachael.wilson@qut.edu.au.