Building and diversifying technology talent for the future


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The next generation of highly skilled technology talent is in the making thanks to a major partnership between Telstra and the University of Melbourne. Through a broad suite of activities, this first-of-its-kind partnership is building both the capacity and capabilities required to solve a critical skills challenge of the future.

Key points

  • Telstra and the University of Melbourne are building and diversifying Australia’s pipeline of technology talent through an over $5  million partnership
  • The partnership aims to generate the capacity of talent needed to equip the sector with critical skills for the future, through a range of programs and activities
  • Melbourne Connect is the key site for the partnership, providing a space for Telstra and the University to connect and collaborate, along with being home to the Telstra Creator Space – a hands-on innovation lab for students, start-ups and industry
  • Since launching in 2020, over 1,300 students and professionals have engaged in core partnership activities so far, not including learning developed for Telstra employees, which includes both a microcredential and FutureReady program
  • There is an estimated shortfall of 186,000 tech workers in Australia until 2030.

The outcome

The University of Melbourne and Telstra are partnering to cultivate a highly skilled, diverse pool of graduate technology talent.

Over 1,300 students and professionals have collaborated through the partnership since it launched in 2020 to build the capacity of future talent and equip graduates with the skills to solve complex challenges with technical expertise and an innovative mindset.

Core outcomes of the partnership include:

  • Telstra Creator Space: a physical, co-branded maker space for students, start-ups and industry to innovate, collaborate, and gain practical experience, with access to a fabrication and prototyping facility
  • Student Talent Activation: a suite of student-centred programs, such as support for student clubs, sponsorship of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology’s Endeavour Awards for students
  • Technology Projects: innovation projects solving real-world problems worked on by senior year masters or PhD students, with guidance from Telstra SMEs and University academic supervisors. A minimum of five are supported annually, with roughly 20 projects being delivered each year and this continues to grow
  • Telstra Technology and Innovation Scholarships: a range of scholarships for masters and undergraduates, prioritising women and Indigenous students to build diversity into the STEM talent pipeline. To date, all scholarship recipients have been women, making an important contribution to gender diversity.

The partnership team has also delivered several growth opportunities, including the development of the Intrapreneurship Fundamentals microcredential, and FutureReady program – which provides Telstra employees who achieve FutureReady credentials with credit towards Masters programs.

Head of Telstra Labs, Andrew Scott, says, “It’s a very pragmatic partnership aimed at building the kind of talent we need. For example, in the Telstra Creator Space they're building physical objects and getting their hands dirty, which are such important skills. It also appeals to a more diverse set of people, so it expands the pool of people coming through too.”

The partnership is already delivering significant benefits – positioning Telstra as an employee of choice and providing opportunities for the Telstra Early Careers Team to engage with and recruit future talent.

For students, feedback is equally positive. Master of Engineering (Mechatronics) student Dion Kouskouris, who worked on a Telstra Student Project in 2021, and was part of the Telstra Graduate Program, says the experience enhanced both her technical and professional skills and helped reaffirm her career choice.

“Not only can [Telstra Student Projects] help you apply the knowledge you have learnt in your degree, but you will also be able to gain exposure to industry best practices, all while strengthening your soft skills such as communication, critical thinking and time management. [The Telstra Graduate Program] has a lot of pathway options but it means I can combine the skills I learned in my studies and my experiences working on a Telstra Student Project to build my dream career.”

Scholarships and new study pathways via FutureReady are expanding and diversifying the University’s student cohort, while co-designed curriculum is supporting learners to develop emerging technological skills and knowledge.

This genuinely diverse cohort will graduate with globally recognised technological capabilities, ready to tackle some of our biggest challenges including climate change, cybersecurity, AI and big data, in addition to physical and mental health.

Head of Leadership and Capability at Telstra, Helen Anderson, says, “Telstra's challenges are the sector’s challenges. So, ensuring future capabilities like innovation, adaptability and collaboration increase in our technical roles, has a flow on effect for capability across the community. The partnership we have with the University of Melbourne to provide credit towards qualifications for FutureReady credentials is highly valued by our employees.”

The need

The economy is increasingly connected and digitised, and the challenges society faces are becoming more complex. To keep pace with change and come up with truly innovative solutions, we need a robust, highly skilled technology workforce. This includes people from various disciplines, genders and backgrounds to both make up the numbers, along with ensuring there is diversity of thought and skills, crucial to solving such problems.

Yet, in the face of this increasing need, Tech Council estimates Australia will need to employ an additional 653,000 tech workers to meet the shared goal of achieving 1.2 million tech jobs in Australia by 2030 (representing an increase of 186,000 over business-as-usual approaches)*.

Not only do more people need training, but skillsets must be broadened, in addition to opening up the industry to everyone. When we invest in STEM skills, innovation and collaboration, along with having a talent pipeline that is truly diverse, we will be equipped to tackle those complex challenges and develop solutions for everyone.

Developing the solution

Launched in 2020, the partnership is based on a shared drive to genuinely address the gap in the technology workforce.

The University of Melbourne approached Telstra as a prospective activation partner for the new innovation and technology precinct, Melbourne Connect. Telstra’s positioning evolution from a telecommunications company to a broader technology company saw a key strategic alignment with the goals of the University and an opportunity to help shape the next generation of talent.

Developing the partnership model took shape through collaboration and commitment to the goal.

Says Anderson, “We signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which was really a commitment to work closely together on whatever made sense. It was a genuine collaboration of ‘what could this be?’”

Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, Mark Cassidy, agrees:

“This strategic partnership represents a new type of university-industry engagement, focused on collaboration. The broad range of activities is not like any industry / academic partnership in Australia. It's focused on the long term and its impact will be felt on the ground.”

*Getting to 1.23 million: Our roadmap to create a thriving Australian tech workforce.


  • Telstra
  • The University of Melbourne

First published on 6 October 2022.

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