The first quarter of this year has barely entered the realm of recent history, and already, IT companies are clamouring to secure the next wave of freshly educated talent for their 2008 workforce.
Several companies kicked off their graduate recruitment drives last week, presenting a variety of offerings to final year students at careers exhibitions held by universities across Sydney.
At the University of New South Wales' Careers Expo 2007 on Monday, technology behemoth IBM put forth its Graduate Development Program in attempts to fill some 200 entry-level professional roles.
The highly structured, one-year program provides graduates with training, community programs, peer support through a facilitated mentoring program, organised social events, and a Web site, as well as quarterly briefing sessions for managers of graduates.
"IBM has participated in a number of career fairs and has commenced first round interviews," said Bernadette Lamaro, Vitality Hiring Manager of IBM in Australia and New Zealand, who also noted a growing trend in IT candidates tending towards business roles rather than pure technical roles.
But despite its long-standing reputation as a leader in the IT industry, the competition for skilled workers is toughening up for IBM this year, as small and medium businesses ramp up their university recruitment drives.
"There are a lot of small and medium businesses recruiting graduates who have not participated [in university recruitment drives] previously," Lamaro said, "which has lead to greater demand, [a] broader scope of graduate job roles available and increased competition to secure the brightest students."
One such company is GLiNTECH, a privately-held IT consultancy that currently hires about 55 employees in Sydney. Although it does not have the branding of large corporations like IBM, the size and structure of GLiNTECH allows it to offer a vibrant culture and a flexible graduate program that may appeal to some potential candidates.
"We do have difficulty in attracting an initial lot of students to our stall [at university careers exhibitions]," said the consultancy's Human Resources manager, Jaqueline Chan. "But once they're at our stall and we explain to them what GLiNTECH is like, the response from most of the graduates is actually very positive."
Graduates placed in GLiNTECH's entry-level roles are expected to go through a three-month probationary period, during which they are trained in basic consulting skills, project and task management skills, and equipped with a relevant professional certification of their choice.
After the initial three-month period, recruits take on junior consultant roles, and undergo quarterly performance reviews to potentially advance their salary level and position. GLiNTECH has no hiring quota to fill and will take on as many suitable candidates as there are available, Chan said, expecting the company's fast pace to be an attraction for ambitious graduates.
"A lot of large companies have two-year rotational programs, and at the end of those two years, graduates will still be graduates," she said. "We want our graduates to snap out of the graduate roles very quickly; we don't want them to be 'graduates', we want them to be consultants."
"Graduates will be able to progress as quickly as they want," she said. "This is not a graduate program to attract graduates; it is actually a company culture to attract all levels."
According to Dennis Furini, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Computer Society, structured graduate placements in large companies have their merits.
"Generally, companies that offer graduate placements are more structured and can therefore offer those starting out in the IT industry with a higher salary packages in the first few years of employment," he said. "However, graduate placements are limited."
Starting salaries for IT graduates can be expected to fall within the range of $38,000 to $52,000, Furini said, noting a particular demand for graduates with expertise in business applications, especially in e-commerce; Web site design; systems architecture; entertainment; games and the leisure industry.
"The ICT industry is shifting away from programming and towards supporting the competitive drivers of an organisation," he said. "The majority of employment opportunities occur in the application of computers to create business information systems."
Structured graduate placements afford graduates a good opportunity for learning more about the industry before deciding on the direction they want their careers to take, Furini said.
"Graduate placements are good for those who want to learn more about the spectrum of work related to ICT and who are undecided on a particular career path," he said. "For those who know exactly what career path and job they would like to do, then an entry-level position of a specific role would be more beneficial."