Skills shortage an obstacle to ICT industry growth

Revenue tops $84.3 billion

Australian ICT industry growth is being constrained by skills shortages in key industry sectors, along with a downturn in telecommunications employment and research & development (R&D) spending, according to an Australian Computer Society (ACS) report released today.

The ACS ICT Industry Report, conducted for the ACS by the Centre for Innovative Industries Economic Research Inc (CIIER), provides an overview of the Australian ICT industry as of December 2007.

The primary mechanism that is used to provide the data for this report is a regular survey of ICT companies in Australia.

ACS president Kumar Parakala said the primary concern identified by the ACS Industry Report was that ICT skills shortages are now negatively impacting ICT industry performance.

Parakala said this will have significant economic flow-on effects for Australian business at a time when global industry growth is paramount.

"The report provides a significant overview of the current state of the ICT industry and its impact on other industry sectors," he said.

"Of the 514,000 ICT professionals currently working in Australia, more than 268,000 work directly in the ICT industry, supplying goods and services to every sector of the economy.

"Findings suggest that employment volatility is declining, vacancies are up to record highs and employment growth is slowing."

There are three key factors creating significant pressure on the ICT industry performance - a downtrend in telecommunications employment, a reduction in the number of Australian ICT companies in the market, and a continued decline in R&D spending.

The total number of ICT workers in Australia is 514,000 with the total number of employees at 268,000.

Revenue generated by the ICT industry totals $84.3 billion while R&D totals $600 million.

Other findings from the report show the level of female participation in the ICT technical and professional workforce is just under 30 per cent of the total workforce.

ICT employment growth since 2003 in Western Australia stands at 42 per cent, in Queensland it is 31 per cent, Victoria 22 per cent and NSW is 16 per cent compared to only 12 per cent in the Northern Territory, nine per cent in Tasmania and four per cent in South Australia.

Moreover, it is a truly SME-driven industry with over 96 per cent of software and computer services firms small to micro-sized.

Parakala said some of the report's findings raise concerns for the future of the ICT industry and overall economic prosperity.

"While Western Australia and Queensland continue to grow in ICT employment faster than non-mining states, the pace of growth has begun to slow in WA in the last six months," he said.

"ICT underpins so many areas of our national growth and productivity Australia's ICT priorities must be top of mind if Australia is to maintain its globally competitive position.

"This includes encouraging more people to enter or re-enter the ICT workforce, particularly women and older workers. It's important for industry and government to collaborate on creating a sustainable ICT ecosystem that will help manage and grow the ICT workforce."

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