The President: The year ahead!

The next 12 months is shaping up as a watershed year for the IT industry and the profession. Prins Ralston explains whyNot only do we face the challenges encompassed in the year 2000 problem, the new euro currency, and the growing trend towards the Internet and e-commerce, but the IT skills crisis continues to pose additional hazards.

Research is currently under way to assess the impact of the skills shortage and identify which industry sectors are most affected, with the ACS contributing to the development of long- and short-term solutions at both the policy and enterprise level.

While some information indicates the shortage is particularly acute in particular product areas such as SAP, the society is cautious about calls to provide short-term, product-specific training to enable people to move into these areas.

This approach has often been used in the past to address a skills issue, but it is a short-term fix at best and can create new problems down the track since it is difficult to predict the take-up of new software and other technologies and hence, their support requirements.

The ACS is a firm advocate of basic IT training to equip professionals with the knowledge and skills to handle a range of technologies and applications. While it requires a commitment of three years to produce qualified graduates, such individuals are far more capable of adapting to the changing demands generated by emerging technologies.

By comparison, the medical profession would never consider training unqualified individuals in a specific area such as ear, nose and throat to fill a lack of available specialists.

While this approach might be considered more of a long-term solution to the IT skills shortage, it should be possible to provide short-term, intensive training to current IT students and unemployed graduates in specific areas to meet existing demands for staff.

While the skills crisis is certainly the flavour of the month, the ACS has been aware of the problem for some time, having first identified and raised this issue as early as three years ago. It is gratifying to see the new levels of cooperation being experienced between the profession, industry, academia and government as the focus moves to finding a workable solution.

For the society, 1999 also looks set to be a year of significant change and growth, with the introduction of the ECDL (E-Commerce Driving Licence), a program designed to help individuals "drive" computers with the same ease they might drive a car, raising the general level of competence in IT to improve productivity in the workplace.

At the same time, we're working on a number of new initiatives and processes designed to make our organisation operate more efficiently while improving services to members, and building on our relationships with government and key industry bodies.

A key event on the IT calendar, and one you should plan to attend, will be the ASOCIO Conference, to be hosted in Canberra by the AIIA with assistance from the ACS.

Our ability to influence and shape the direction of the Australian IT industry and the wider community is dependent on the active support and participation of you, our members. Let's make a difference in 1999!

Prins Ralston is president of the ACS

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