When it comes to an intellectually satisfying and financially rewarding career in ICT, the federal government has an image problem and could do with a marketing makeover, according to Australian government CIO Ann Steward.
Speaking at the South East Asian Regional Computer Confederation confrerence (SEARCC 2005) in Sydney yesterday, Steward warned that public sector agencies need to promote themselves as employers of first choice for ICT professionals if they hope to compete with industry and secure the best IT and managerial talent for their organizations.
Steward said the federal government needed to lift its game and should "focus and create an ICT community of practice", adding that governments in general do not do enough to "market the leading edge technical projects", to the available workforce.
Steward's frank insight comes as numerous government agencies struggle to fill an employment void of more than a thousand, new, Canberra-based IT positions created by projects such as Welfare to Work crackdown on social security recipients, the Australian Taxation Office's Change Program and Centrelink's IT Refresh project.
Steward said government agencies "don't necessarily behave all that well", on collaboratively forecasting the demands for ICT skills in the public service, a situation she is seeking to rectify by creating a "demand-side" survey for ICT skills across agencies to negotiate around potential bottlenecks.
However, Steward stressed she did not intend to create some sort of centralized IT labour pool for the government, but to allow senior managers to better plan by seeing what their colleagues were doing.
Asked if it was possible the government might create either subsidize IT scholarships at a tertiary level, or traineeships for graduates, Steward said many agencies, including her Department of Finance, already had graduate programs in place.
Steward rejected the proposition that the current ICT skills shortage would cause federal projects to be delayed or overshoot their budgets because of an underestimation of labour costs.
IDG is the official organizer and media sponsor of the SEARCC 05 conference.