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How AI is transforming the Australian workforce
Fri, 23rd Feb 2024

We are in an era of technological transformation, and generative AI is changing the game. Its potential to revolutionise decision-making and automate manual processes has seen an explosion in growth as simultaneous structural shifts impact the Australian economy.

With technology skills becoming deeply embedded into all facets of the economy, companies are looking to adopt innovative digital strategies to remain competitive and attract new talent. According to the ACS, the number of Australians working in the industry reached 870,300 last year, with this figure expected to exceed 1 million in 2024 before surging to 1.2 million by 2027. This strong growth shows that the country has a clear opportunity to fulfil its digital aspirations, but these goals can’t be achieved without embracing AI-powered automation.

Is Australia AI ready?

A recent report from the Tech Council of Australia highlighted that Australia could unlock billions of dollars in value by 2030 if it accelerates the responsible adoption of generative AI. This technology presents an enormous opportunity, however it demands a deep understanding of many intricacies to harness its full potential. With the number of occupations demanding digital skills on the rise, there is a need for a stronger pipeline of technology workers. 

In a global economy where competition for talent is intense, particularly in areas of technology and artificial intelligence, the government’s new migration strategy announced last month will fast-track specialist skills to combat the nation's tech skills shortage. It is designed to make Australia more competitive in attracting global talent, which will increase the global success of local companies. The hope is for Australia to attract the brightest minds, such as highly skilled software engineers, who will help Australia embrace the artificial intelligence transformation, drive innovation and growth and ultimately, Australia’s international performance. With the ACS reporting that the number of IT graduates is sitting at less than 9,000 per year, upskilling and reskilling while retaining current workers is essential to achieving sustainable industry growth.

Skills for the future of work.

As generative AI will augment job roles, the need for better training and reskilling is only growing more acute. The focus will be on honing skills that are difficult for AI to replicate, such as critical thinking, complex problem-solving, creativity and emotional intelligence.

The ability to diagnose problems more quickly won’t replace expertise–while AI can identify problems, humans still need to correct them.

The proliferation of AI is already increasing the demand for jobs, including data analysts and scientists, with a recent report from the AIIA showing that there are many untapped opportunities. In Australia, professional and financial services, mining, farming, healthcare, and medical research are the key sectors poised to benefit from AI, but the growth in technology will be relevant to businesses of all shapes and sizes, especially those in tech operations and software development.

Now, with generative AI, there will be an explosion of new software developed in a completely different way. For example, AI-powered code generation and related tools are revolutionising how software gets created, tested, and deployed.

A large part of coding work can now be executed using these tools, providing a massive increase in productivity as less time is spent writing code. However, developers need to get better at testing if the bulk of code is now going to be generated–they must continue to refine their skills at comprehending code and testing it.

With the explosion of AI, the skills value of architecting and solutions is in heavy demand. Individuals who can solve problems and build well-architected solutions will grow exponentially. More people will become creators, and small teams will be able to do a lot more at speed.

One of the immediate areas AI assistants have enhanced is observability – the practice of proactively collecting, visualising, and applying intelligence from all metrics, events, logs, and traces to better understand the behaviour of complex digital systems. All engineers – from developers to operations, security, product, support, and QA (quality assurance) teams – will be able to fix issues faster, reduce outages, and increase development velocity and innovation with this technology.

How can we tackle this change?

In this next phase of transformation, businesses should adapt to the AI revolution. Employees who are informed and increasingly fluent with AI tools will find themselves at a distinct advantage in the workplace by lifting productivity, and data suggests that we are well on the way.

According to the 2023 New Relic Observability Forecast research report, machine learning (ML) model performance monitoring and AIOps rank as the second and third most popular observability practices that will be deployed within the next year.

Organisations must understand that AI will impact employees in a multitude of ways and should strive to become more human-centric and values-based. Business leaders in an AI environment should:

  • Embrace AI as a tool to help make informed decisions and improve operations while making sure it does not replace human judgment and creativity.
  • Empower their teams to experiment with new ideas and technologies to find innovative solutions to business problems.
  • Provide opportunities for training and upskilling to help employees stay up to date with the latest AI technologies and practices.
  • Invest in AI education and provide opportunities for employees

Innovation requires deeper collaboration between Australian industry and government to leverage the benefits of generative AI. By transforming its highly skilled tech workforce and injecting strong investment into digital infrastructure and adoption, Australia will be able to harness the economic benefits of AI and remain globally competitive.