Today, women fill only about 25% of jobs in Australia’s space and defence industry. But Akkodis, a technology-focused Adecco business unit, is working to change that with an innovative program named Tech Start. The goal of the initiative, which is a joint effort with Microsoft, is to provide women with training, networking connections and confidence as they pursue a career in this growing sector.
The free 10-week program is open to any woman interested in developing experience in data analytics regardless of their academic and work background. Initially, Tech Start will help candidates acquire skills and micro-credentials that will prepare them for an entry-level data analyst role. Starting later this year, future iterations of the program will also focus on cybersecurity and software development — critical components of technology, defence, space, and virtually all other industries.
News that American Jessica Watkins is preparing to be the first Black woman to live and work on the International Space Station for an extended mission lends even more excitement to Tech Start, while also highlighting the fact that the space, defence and tech industry has a long way to go in providing opportunities for women. The partnership is a major step in the right direction. “It serves the important purpose of building more equitable career pathways into the high-tech jobs that Australia is actively creating,” says Anatoli Kovalev, Head of Akkoodis Tech Academy. “It will help kickstart the careers of women aspiring to participate in these industries by providing them with industry-recognised training certifications, professional connections and practical experience.”
The ongoing goal of the Akkoodis Tech Academy is to address a challenge that often exists: How do you bridge the gap between completing higher education and securing that first job that serves as a toehold into a given industry? The Australian Tech Start program came about relatively quickly in 2021 when the academy enrolled in the Microsoft Learning Partner program. “I was fortunate to connect with Beth [Worrall] and learn more about her work at Microsoft,” says Kovalev. “It was clear from the start of the partnership that we shared a common aim of enhancing the role women play in the tech and space industries, and we wanted to act decisively to do something about it.”
For her part, Worrall notes that “I had the opportunity to work with many people in the Adecco network and was impressed by their energy, enthusiasm and commitment to supporting people to reskill, upskill and find work.”
During the 10-week immersive Tech Start program, participants will receive Microsoft Certified training in the rapidly growing fields of data analytics and business intelligence. This will culminate in a Demo Day during which they’ll present their projects to key stakeholders the Australian space, defence and technology industries. By the end of the year, Kovalev says, “We hope to have supported at least 100 women through the program,” in addition to adding cloud and cybersecurity modules.
Other key information includes the following:
- Students must apply to take part in the inaugural program; 20 will be selected for each cohort.
- The program includes four modules exposing students to both technical concepts (with an initial focus on data) and highly sought-after professional skills that will benefit them in any field they choose.
- The key outcome is for students to understand what an entry-level data analyst role in Australia's space, defence and technology industries involves and to leave with the pathways, tools and confidence to pursue such a career.
- Students who complete Tech Start will earn two Microsoft certifications that they can display on their LinkedIn profiles or CVs in the form of digital badges.
What success will look like
With Tech Start, Akkoodis and Microsoft are creating a platform that incorporates experiential learning by providing opportunities for students to engage with partner organisation projects that enhance their employability, provide hands-on industry experience, and improve their awareness of Australia’s high-tech Industry as a career opportunity. “We will expose participants to a wide range of learning opportunities that aren’t necessarily explored in their primary field of study or occupation,” Kovalev points out.
Additionally, Tech Start drives equity, diversity and inclusion by providing cutting-edge learning opportunities to students from a broader range of socioeconomic, gender and regional backgrounds, with an initial focus on increasing the participation rates of women.
Microsoft and Akkodis view Tech Start as “a wonderful way to connect South Australian women to successful women already working in the space, defence and technology industries,” Worrall says. “Ultimately, this is about supporting people to access jobs and opportunities that might have otherwise been unavailable to them.”
Research from Australia’s Tech Council highlights the impact a job in technology can have; such jobs are a ticket to a level of economic and career opportunity that far outstrips most other fields. Getting people into tech jobs has been identified as a vital tool for driving social mobility in Australia.
Moreover, Tech Start serves as a flexible template. Kovalev believes the model could be adapted to multiple regions and industries. “When it comes to Tech Start,” he says, “the sky’s the limit.