How will the Budget 2019-20 impact jobs within the STEM industry, specifically the cyber security space?

In the lead-up to the federal election, the Budget 2019-20 papers have disclosed a number of action points relating to the cyber security market and the broader STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industry. Specifically, these include the whole-of-government cyber uplift aimed at creating cyber sprint teams, health innovation and research as well as the $9 billion allocated to tech and science. The budget echoes the words of the Prime Minister of Australia, The Hon Scott Morrison MP:

Protecting the strength of our economy and setting Australia up for continued economic success is central to our plan for the welfare of every single Australian and their future”.

How is the government planning to contribute to the job market?

In response to the national skills shortages and future changes in the labour market, the Federal government is allocating $525 million over a five-year plan in the vocational education and training (VET) sector to ensure that Australians have the necessary skills to maintain their employability in the future. As part of the Delivering Skills for Today and Tomorrow programme, the government will also be developing training programmes within IT, communications and cyber security. The government will have a National Skills Commission in place to drive the long-term reform of VET and ascertain the smooth running of the programme. This further entails an investment of $42.4 million over four years to establish the National Careers Institute and provide individuals with better access to career and educational resources.

The government is also implementing a financial incentive called Additional Identified Skills Shortage Payment to support businesses and help apprentices gain specific skills. The programme will ensure 80,000 additional apprentices are made available to bridge current national skill shortages. The government will also provide $62.4 million to establish a national programme to deliver foundational skills training to ensure all Australians have the required skills to remain relevant in the future job market. These will include four remote Indigenous communities and will be developed together with the local community.

In a move to provide greater job opportunities to young people, the government will also allocate $50.6 million to pilot ten Training Hubs in regional areas of high youth unemployment. Funds totalling $3.6 million will also be used over two years to deliver a national ‘Innovation Games’ to provide Australian university students and graduates the opportunity to apply their skills within their local community.

What does this mean for the cyber security space?

To promote cyber security and other digital technologies across Australia, the budget has allocated $41.7 million to skills organisations to trial new ways to develop vocational education qualifications and meet the expanding need for skilled workers. On a national scale, the government is also reinforcing Australia’s defence against targeted cyber threats and increasing the country’s response rate to cyber-attacks.

Ahead of the election, the budget papers also reassured that funding would "enhance cyber security arrangements for whole-of-government systems in relation to the 2019 Federal election, and mitigate potential cyber threats through enhanced monitoring and response capabilities". This also includes the creation of "cyber sprint teams" under the Australian Cyber Security Centre and a Cyber Security Response Fund.

Such increase in cyber security measures is significant to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) – the agency that supports the Australian Government and Australian Defence Force through its intelligence, cyber security and offensive operations. Under ASD, the Foreign Signals, Cyber Security and Offensive Cyber Operations programme will expend $833 million in 2019-20 and up to $4 billion through to 2023. A total of $38.7 billion will also be spent on national security with funds allocated to defence against cyber-attacks as part of its Cyber Security Strategy.

A greater emphasis for women within STEM

To ensure that Australians are equipped with the right set of skills for future jobs, there has been a stronger emphasis on building a stronger Australian workforce with advanced STEM skills. A $3.4 million four-year initiative has been announced to support women in STEM as well as promote the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative in higher education and research institutions. In doing so, it is expected that there will be greater awareness about the benefits of having STEM skills and that this will in turn encourage greater participation in STEM from a young age. Budget 2019-20 has also allocated $15.1 million to Questacon to expand its programmes to include more women in STEM industries.

What does the industry think about the current cyber security space in Australia?

According to AustCyber – the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, the skills shortage in the cyber security sector is costing Australia more than $400 million in lost revenue and wages. As a result of the shortage of cyber security skills, Australian firms have found it challenging to adequately find talent to support their IT team against cyber-attacks.

Greg Austin, Professor University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Cyber, stated that “Australia needs a cyber war college and a cyber civil reserve force to drive our human capital development”. Whilst RMIT has recently partnered with National Australia Bank (NAB) to launch a new online course on cyber security in a bid to address Australia's cyber security skills shortage; there is still a lack of university degree programmes or professional education on advanced cyber operations. AustCyber further revealed that 17,600 additional cyber security professionals will be needed by 2026 to fulfil the nation's cyber security needs.

The government’s efforts to bridge the national skills gap is therefore setting the workforce on the right track towards long-term employability.

Are you a cyber security specialist looking for your next opportunity?

Our team at Huxley can assist you in progressing your career or connecting you with other cyber security professionals. Simply contact us on 02 8251 2120 for a confidential discussion or visit our Huxley LinkedIn page to learn more about what we do.

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