For almost all Australian and New Zealand IT firms, talent and skills regularly top both the priorities and challenges list.
This need has heightened intensively since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago, which effectively shut both nations’ borders to any incoming skills to plug much-needed gaps.
Amid all this, Cognizant's Australia and New Zealand CEO Jane Livesey has an ambitious plan to ramp up both local skills and sharpen talent in the places most underserved – starting in South Australia.
At the end of last year, the global IT service provider launched a delivery hub in Adelaide where it will house 1,600 digital engineers, graduates and apprentices by 2026.
These will specialise in software, artificial intelligence, machine learning, cloud computing and data analytics.
Although the company has set itself a high target, Livesey is confident the hub will meet its goal. Indeed, the hiring process is already well underway, she said.
"We set an ambitious growth target but also a big target for being the strongest place in Australia in terms of skills," Livesey said. "Embedding ourselves in the communities where we live, and work has been a big focus for us."
"We were looking for different things with Adelaide," she continued. "The important thing we found was close alignment with the South Australian government with their focus on innovation and sustainability. The centre is about digital skills, especially in the areas of data and the internet of things (IoT). There was a natural fit between our organisations."
Some members of Cognizant's current teams are even looking at relocating from Melbourne and Sydney to join the Adelaide hub.
"There's never been a more exciting time in Adelaide if you want to have a career as a technologist. There's a big shift [happening there]," Livesey said. "Cognizant is very focused on ensuring we embed ourselves in the communities where we work."
The CEO also revealed Cognizant's plans to ramp up its skills base through working with the universities, establishing internship at the delivery centre, with a focus on disadvantaged youths and Indigenous groups.
The latter will be run by the Cognizant Foundation, which has just launched in Australia.
"We will also bring in talent from overseas where we need to complement that base with additional skills and experience," Livesey continued. "But we think there is a really good base of talent and educational development in South Australia."
Underpinning Livesey and Cognizants’ skills target is its global flexible working policy, which the CEO said allows people the opportunity to work where they want.
"We have a very flexible working policy. We want to give people the opportunity to work from where they want to," she explained. "[The delivery centre] doesn't just align to our flexible working but also that of our partners working in the innovation hub. Having that presence gives people the opportunity to come together and to make that lifestyle choice – Adelaide is said to be the third most livable city in the world."
However, it's undeniable that Cognizant owes its recent staffing growth to its acquisition of Servian, which had doubled its existing team to 2,400 people in Australia.
This again though, for Livesey is about more than just the numbers. "We've been looking to expand our reach into some of those new areas like IoT and the growth of our cloud and data capability has been fantastic," she said. "Cognizant has a wonderful culture and incredible people. We are on a journey.
"It's about relevance and impact and continuing to build on the growth we have had this year. Australian businesses are innovative. They are responsive. It's incredible to see how organsiations are doing and their work on ESG [environmental, social and governance]. It makes us think more about our impact in Australia and continue that impact and relevance.
"What's really important is that we continue to innovate together. We are trying to solve some big issues of the day. We want to bring the best skills both locally and globally to these issues."