‘Geeks are hot’: The Aussies who won the pandemic

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There was a 292 per cent growth in multimedia managers and web developers between February 2020 and February 2021, according to demographer Bernard Salt's analysis of ABS data for Xero. (Source: Getty)


There was a 292 per cent growth in multimedia managers and web developers between February 2020 and February 2021, according to demographer Bernard Salt’s analysis of ABS data for Xero. (Source: Getty)

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The COVID-19 pandemic has driven huge demand for website creators, agricultural plant operators and pharmacists, new data analysis has revealed.

There were 15,000 more people in multimedia manager and web developer roles in February 2021 compared to the 12 months prior, according to expert analysis of ABS figures, representing a surge of 292 per cent.

The pandemic also created 7,000 (or 84 per cent) more jobs for operators of agricultural plants as well as 14,000 more jobs for pharmacists (58 per cent). 12,000 new workers were added to the crop farm workforce (54 per cent) in this period.

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Demographer Bernard Salt, who conducted research for the Xero Boss Insights 2021 report, noted that while the pandemic had caused tens of thousands of job losses, particularly in the hospitality, customer service and travel industries, it had also created thousands in others.

(Source: Xero Boss Insights 2021 report)

(Source: Xero Boss Insights 2021 report)

In particular, ‘geek jobs’ – web developers – were the greatest winners of them all, he said, as businesses scrambled to create an online presence after lockdowns hit.

“The first thing you do when you take your business online is to create a website. You call a geek,” Salt said.

“The geeks are hot … they’ve had their moment in the sun during the pandemic.”

Agricultural plant operator jobs ballooned by 84 per cent over the 12 month period, and Bernard ponders whether this is partially because people hoarded flour during lockdown, which sparked a baking craze.

More likely, it is because the rains of January 2020 ended the months-long drought. “This created an extraordinary agricultural boom,” he told Yahoo Finance.

“The regions are blooming, greening, and burgeoning with product and crop. And that drives the demand for skilled agricultural labour, who can drive tractors and harvesters and plowing implements.”

The pandemic saw pharmacy jobs grow by more than half (58 per cent) – and this one is no surprise given COVID-19’s strain on the healthcare industry.

“Clearly during the pandemic, health and pharmacy issues are paramount.”

Over the 12 months, people that joined the pharmaceutical workforce came from different backgrounds, he said, with some joining the industry as fresh graduates; some coming out of retirement; while others returned after a stint in the corporate world.

“So anyone skilled in that area finds an opportunity, and to be frank, there’s a sense of duty – they’re doing what they can over that time frame.”

Australia’s war for talent

The new Xero report comes as job ads hit record-high levels, with the nation’s economic recovery now grappling with a worker shortage.

Australian employers have been busy hiring, with 70,700 new jobs added in March as the nation’s unemployment rate dropped again.

The National Skills Commission revealed that jobs ads rose for the 11th consecutive month in March, which had 238,700 job openings across the nation – a rise of 19.1 per cent from the previous month.

Vacancies have risen most in Western Australia, which marked a 23.9 per cent increase in job ads between February and March, followed by Tasmania (19.9 per cent).

But employers are having a hard time filling roles, with Seek data revealing applications per ad are at its lowest point since 2012.

There are a number of factors at play here, according to Seek Australia New Zealand managing director Kendra Banks.

“There are likely many reasons contributing to this decline such as: a reduced labour supply impacting the ability to fill roles, workers displaying a more cautious approach to career moves following a turbulent year, and with more jobs available, there is a knock-on effect to the number of applications per job ad posted,” Banks said.

Meanwhile, the hospitality and tourism industries – which were hardest-hit by the pandemic – remain the most in need of new workers.

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