The Virtual Work Experience program will allow people aged between 14 and 25 to build their digital skills.

The program is a partnership between the Federal Government and the Tech Council of Australia, and draws on the support of software giant Microsoft, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the National Broadband Network.

Minister for Education Jason Clare said the program is now available in schools and is aimed at students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The tech industry is growing at almost twice the rate of the rest of economy. There are 860,000 Australians working in tech and we need even more,” Clare said.

“This initiative will give students a chance to see if a career in tech is right for them.”

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the program would also help reduce employment barriers for many.

“This virtual program will engage disadvantaged young people and other groups under-represented in the tech sector, such as people with disability, to realise their potential to be part of the fastest growing job industry in Australia,” she said.

“Tech Council of Australia has worked with an expert advisory panel to ensure the program’s accessibility for young people with disability.”

The genesis for the program came following the Jobs and Skills Summit, which was held in Canberra in 2022.

Young people taking part will also gain industry-relevant experience, and modules provided to prospective students will help them develop skills across cyber security, software engineering and data science.

It will also be made available to more than 1200 schools across Australia on the Career Tools Platform.

Tech Council of Australia chair Robyn Denholm said the initiative will help the organisation reach a target of 1.2 million jobs in the industry by 2030.

“Tech jobs are amongst the fastest growing and best jobs in our economy,” she said.

“It’s a very egalitarian industry, we want more women, Indigenous Australians, people with disability and those living in outer suburbs and regional Australia to have the ability to access these fulfilling careers.”

“As someone who grew up in south-western Sydney and attended a public high school, I know first-hand that your background shouldn’t stop you from dreaming big in tech.”

Ryan Black, acting CEO of the Tech Council said, getting young people excited about tech careers is an important part of achieving his organisation’s shared goal with the Federal Government of having 1.2 million people in tech jobs by 2030.

“The Virtual Work Experience program was an important outcome of the 2022 Jobs and Skills Summit,” Black said.

“Through this program, young people can expect to get experience in tech occupations that are among the most in-demand across the economy – not just in tech companies, but also in banking, mining, retail, government and professional services.”

Executive director of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, Travers McLeod, agreed that the program was a great initiative.

“We know this industry is growing at a rapid rate, and it’s essential we help everyone who is interested to get a foot in the door and build their confidence and capability, regardless of their circumstances,” McLeod said.

“Such innovative initiatives being implemented from the Jobs Summit give us hope that similar ambition will be brought to the broader employment services reform project following the Workforce Australia Review and Working Future White Paper.”

Youth employment organisation Year13 will be promoting the program.

Tech Council Australia and Year13 are aiming to reach more than 200,000 young people online via social media over the next two years through a targeted campaign.

The Virtual Work Experience program can be accessed here.

(with AAP)