Cyber security skills top priority for businesses nearly half yet to engage with AI

Ai Group’s Centre for Education and Training (CET) today released survey data which shows that cybersecurity skills top a long list of digital and technology skills that businesses are focusing on this year. It also reveals that a lack of workforce skills and capabilities is preventing many Australian companies from doing more with generative artificial intelligence (AI).

These findings are from Ai Group’s CET survey, Listening to Australian businesses on workforce and skills 2024. The survey is run every two years.

Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox said: “This latest data tells us that many Australian businesses will be looking for skills in cybersecurity, AI and big data in 2024 as they explore new technologies and look to protect their digital assets.

“It also tells us that a lack of workforce skills and capabilities is holding many Australian businesses back from doing more with AI,” Mr Willox said.

In 2024 64% of businesses surveyed said they needed cyber security skills and capabilities in their business. This has risen from 33% in 2022. Basic digital skills also remain a high priority for Australian companies. 42% of those surveyed in 2024 said they needed more basic digital skills in their business. This is slightly down from 62% in 2022.

There is also increasing demand for skills in AI and big data. In 2024 30% of companies surveyed said they needed artificial intelligence skills in their business, up from 20% in 2022. This year 33% of businesses said they needed big data skills, up from 25% in 2022. The proportion of businesses reporting a demand for cloud computing, programming, networking and human-machine interface skills has dropped off since 2022.

When it comes to digital upskilling, businesses are focused on managers. Three quarters (75%) of businesses surveyed intend to focus their efforts on improving the digital skills of their managers, up from 60% in 2022. Professionals are also a key focus, with 62% of respondents intending to improve the digital capability of the professionals in their business.

For the first time, this year’s survey asked about how businesses are engaging, or not engaging with generative AI. 41% of the businesses we heard from reported ‘no engagement’ with this technology. Small and medium businesses were the most likely to report no engagement.

Of those making use of AI technology, 37% were using it to develop business analytics to inform decision making and 36% were using it to optimise operations and reduce waste/cost. Others were using it to automate appropriate labour-intensive processes/tasks (33%), improve the speed and quality of customer service (28%) or to identify new commercial opportunities (19%).

When asked about the barriers holding them back from doing more with AI, the top three answers from businesses were: insufficient understanding of the opportunities (63%), skills gaps (53%) and leaders lacking the skills and capabilities (41%).

The message is clear – a lack of human skills and capabilities is preventing many businesses from embracing the potential of this technology.

The survey Listening to Australian businesses on workforce and skills 2024 had responses from 251 individual businesses, collectively employing a total of 291,232 FTE employees.

For the full Research Insight see:

The digital revolution, jobs and skills

Two further data releases to come across May and June:

  • Skills for a clean economy
  • Skills in demand in 2024

/Public Release. View in full here.