Marketing, openness key to ending ICT skills drought

Key stakeholders must work together

The Australian Computer Society held a discussion forum in Sydney today to determine ways the industry can work to end the lack of ICT skills in an economy gasping for more tech talent.

Thought leaders from the government, education, and private sectors were invited to openly express opinions on what can be done to improve the attractiveness of ICT as a career path for young people and experienced professionals alike.

Moderating the forum, workforce trends consultant Peter Sheahan said the ICT skills shortage is not new, and there are challenges around the world getting skilled staff across all industries, so "how might we tell a better story?"

"ICT is a fundamental part of the Australian economy and it permeates every industry now," he said, adding if there are plenty of jobs available why aren't people rushing to get into the industry.

Sheahan believes more collaboration is needed to boost the profile of ICT as a career path, and a concerted effort between industry, education, recruiters and the media is needed to change the perception of ICT.

"One of the mainstream retail banks wants to use the vacant real estate on top of its branches so people don't have to travel as far to get to work and the only way they can do that is if ICT people make it happen," he said.

If a career in ICT is "helping to solve the world's problems", Sheahan also believes the industry needs to broaden the selection criteria for traditional ICT roles.

ACS president Philip Argy said the concept of who is an IT worker is broadening all the time, so it is therefore important to define the industry very broadly so people understand the spectrum of opportunities is very broad.

"512,000 is one-tenth of the real number [of IT workers] because of the pervasiveness of IT," Argy said, adding almost every second person is now working in IT.

Director of Sydney architectural firm Project Architecture Chris Procter said the company has adopted an 80/20 rule for recruiting people with architectural and IT skills, respectively.

"The type of people who are attracted to architecture are architects, but it's important to know the syntax of IT because you need to know how computers can help you," Procter said. "To produce a product will require five to six software applications, and they use a small proportion of any software application [so] software is inseparable from architecture [and] they are unemployable if they don't know software."

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