ICT continues to struggle with skills supply and demand

The ICT industry's lack of ability to present itself as a profession is exacerbating the skills shortage

The lack of ability to properly promote the ICT as profession in its own right is exacerbating Australia's long-running skills crisis, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

Speaking at the Discover IT conference in Canberra yesterday, ACS CEO, Alan Patterson, said there is a great disparity between skills supply and demand in the industry, partly due to ICT being ineffectively promoted as a sector in its own right.

“ACS research has looked carefully at Australia’s ICT skills demands and unless Australia tips into a recession, it is estimated that at least 14,000 new ICT jobs will be created during 2012 and at least an additional 21,000 through 2013, but we as a nation are struggling to find the skilled people to fill them,” he said.

To overcome the skills shortage, the government needs to remove the barriers to entry of skilled workers coming to Australia, Patterson said, and to focus more on the role education plays.

“Our own statistical research shows that university enrolments in ICT are currently less than half of what they were a decade ago, and as a percentage of the total student body, are continuing to decline,” Patterson said at the conference.

The industry is also facing an ageing workforce, he said, and poor representation of women in ICT.

Peter Noblet, senior regional director of Hays Information Technology in Asia Pacific, told Computerworld Australia the sector will experience shortages in the dot NET skillset, information management, SharePoint and growing requirements for big picture data warehousing and business intelligence. There will also be growing shortages in areas such as virtualization and the Cloud as those sectors expand.

“With that comes a fairly hefty technical requirement within security and some security layers at the top level. We’re also, within that infrastructure space, seeing requirements coming through in the telecommunications area,” Noblet said.

Geographically, the resources boom in Queensland and Western Australia will continue to see investment in IT infrastructure. However, Noblet said although New South Wales and Victoria are witnessing a strong job flow, the states are not experiencing the skills shortage as much as Western Australia and Queensland.

To deal with the skills shortage, Noblet said companies will continue to employ similar strategies to recruit and retain staff — offering quality projects and work, and placing an emphasis on work/life balance — while some companies will look to offer more lucrative salaries. However, he said one of the only short-term solutions to the skills shortage will be to bring in staff from overseas.

Figures from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship show that the 457 visas, which are used by companies to bring in staff from overseas, increased by 37.1 per cent in information media and telecommunications from July 2011 to December 2011.

“We’ve seen, certainly in places like Western Australia and into Queensland, a bit more of an acceptance of employers to look at people from overseas ... Also, we’re certainly seeing a stream of people coming from Europe and the UK where obviously the markets aren’t as good at the moment. Coming to Australia right now is a good proposition for a lot of people,” Noblet said.

However, Patterson told the conference that data from ACS reveals a 25 per cent drop in temporary overseas ICT migrants. Noblet concedes many companies are still reluctant to bring in staff from overseas due to the challenges, such as recruiting staff without face-to-face interviews and potential cultural issues.

“I think there’s probably other ways [of filling the skills shortage] and I certainly think training and recruiting on attributes rather than an aptitude and pure skills is going to be the way to look at it and investing in that,” he said.

“But I think a lot of organisations want people to hit the ground running straight away, and certainly the small and medium businesses don’t have the time or maybe the expertise to train people up in that way. So, there’s always going to be a shortage and I think bringing people in from overseas, certainly in the short-term, is a good thing because those people bring expertise in certain areas.”

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More about: ACS, Australian Computer Society, ecruit, Technology
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Comments

Gerry

1

Can we really say we are surprised at the drop in the number of ICT students? Given the huge loss of jobs to India, Philippines, Malaysia etc over the years would you really advise your son or daughter to try to make a career in IT - I wouldn't!

Whilst IT skills are vital for anyone entering business these days, they can only contribute to a wider skillset for roles that are technology 'agnostic'.

Taking the plunge into a career that is fully IT dependent is just too much of a risk given the huge changes that are taking place literally under our feet. As an example, have a look at the effects that cloud computing is likely to have on the industry at http://www.itwire.com/cloud-computing/53547-cloud-white-ants-it-departments

Gordon Drennan

2

I've been saying for years what Gerry says. As soon as IT was opened so companies could simply import whatever "skilled" staff they wanted from low wage countries, it was destroyed as a career. Who would be stupid enough to invest years and tens of thousands of dollars for training when you are competing with Chinese and Indians who'll work for low wages, and the minute those skills are obsolete you're unemployed. Opened the doors to overseas staff didn't solve the problem we have with IT skills, it created it.

Arisan

3

I would rather say the Australian employers doesn't know what they wanted. I have armed the relevant skill sets to come to OZ to find my dream job but still, came across lots of obstacles. The employers here should be receptive to candidates who are willing to invest themselves to a new IT skills here and not totally rely on overseas for ready skills to hit the ground running. Even imported skilled labors don't fit into the harsh criteria set by the employers. Though experience is important, training certainly improve project qualities. Eventually, they would plan for an exodus for a greener pastures.

Phil

4

The Skills shortage in ICT is a myth caused by agencies like HAYS and employers looking for people with experience in tools like SharePoint that any decent developer can pick up with little lost productivity.

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