IBM initiates iSeries Tafe course

IBM wants to expand the local labour force available for its System i5 hardware line and increase the number of Tafe colleges offering classes on the mid-range technology.

In terms of the number of workers available to work with the i5 "obviously we need a lot more than we have", according to Linda Grigoleit, IBM's System i5 education program director.

A Victorian Tafe has just joined an IBM initiative to prevent shortages for the platform previously known as iSeries and AS/400.

The program, called System i Academic Initiative, represents IBM Australia's attempt at preventing a System i5 programmer shortage and forms part of 250 global community colleges and universities that offer the training.

Kangan Batman Tafe in Broadmeadow, Victoria, has joined the initiative and training is integrated into the college's computer system engineering and IT courses and forms about 25 percent of subject content.

Technology One managing director Adrian Di Marco said the skills shortages stem from a lack of IT graduates, which he attributes to an industry image problem.

"Those who do graduate are the most skilled in the world, but the industry's poor image is scaring potential students away," he said, adding that companies need to overcome the stigma of IT as a monotonous, unhealthy and routine career by changing the workplace environment.

He said the company works diligently to determine what staff and potential employees want. "Then we use this to counter the [poor] image. We provide little things like breakfast, regular staff meetings and our staff even play soccer on lunch breaks."

IT careers site NowHiring director, Brett Iredale said if the IT industry wants to address its skills shortage creatively it needs to actively build employer branding by constantly promoting corporate culture and career progression opportunities. "Simply advertising a job no longer works," he said.

NSW Board of Studies statistics show the number of students completing IT subjects at HSC level has dropped steadily for the last three years.

In 2003, 22,910 NSW students completed IT subjects including information technology, industrial technology and information processes and technology. This dropped to 18,268 students by 2004 and 15,668 in 2005.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) president, Philip Argy said that while the demand for IT staff is increasing, supply of skilled graduates may lag by seven years.

"The education system is not keeping pace with where the world is going, and it's that gap that is responsible for what we are seeing," Argy said. "The growth in the need for IT skills has levelled out, and even started to increase, but the lead time before people see that and start enrolling in courses and graduating is five to seven years."

Silvano Basso, managing director at Aurion, said graduates are avoiding IT courses, opting for IT combined degrees.

"Students are drifting towards dual degrees rather than sole courses because of the poor industry image," Basso said. He estimates a 30 percent drop in university IT courses and said companies are forced to recruit staff offshore.

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