Urgency of problem pushes Task Force into gear

Taking a stab at Australia's increasing skills shortage crisis, the IT&T Industry Skills Task Force is moving forward on its initiatives to encourage education and career awareness in the industry.

The task force announced last week it is seeking financial assistance from industry players of around $5000 to $10,000 per company to develop a program which will seek to address the 'looming' IT skills shortage in Australia.

The IT&T Industry Skills Task Force is an industry body formed by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and Australian Electrical & Electronic Manufacturers' Association (AEEMA).

According to task force member, Brian Donovan, the industry body has decided to tackle the problem from within the industry rather than wait for the government to come up with a solution.

"Technology and industry is moving so quickly we can't look to long-term solutions that the government or education sector might come up with," he said.

Several initiatives developed by the Task Force at the IT&T Skills Summit last December form the basis of the program which will be "very difficult" to continue without funding, he said.

Key to the program will be the development of a "virtual IT&T education marketplace" or organisation where links between the industry and education sector are better addressed. An important aspect of the proposal will be the inclusion of "seed courses" that allow career pathways for people outside the IT industry, officials said. "This will increase the skills pool available to the industry more quickly than relying on school leavers alone," officials said.

According to officials, the task force has commissioned an on-going survey into the demand for skills as well as a business plan for the new organisation. The survey will also be important in determining which areas of the industry require more training and courses. It is envisaged the organisation will regularly update the survey to keep up-to-date information on the industry and associated education sector, officials said.

Donovan said the business plan for the organisation is expected to be completed in May 1999. If, after evaluation, the plan appears to work, a pilot implementation will go ahead in June or July, Donovan said. The task force expects to complete its work over the next 12 months after which it is planned the organisation will be run on a commercial basis.

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