Society calls for tighter visa controls to tackle IT unemployment

In the wake of the Federal Government's suspension of priority visa processing for ICT skilled migrants, the Australian Computer Society (ACS) is moving to tighten the program further, claiming there is a growing pool of local unemployed IT professionals.

ACS national president Richard Hogg said the national body wants to raise the bar for ICT professionals seeking employment in Australia due to tough local conditions in the job market.

"We have a large pool of unemployed ICT workers and I urge local employers to first seek out within the local market experienced people who either have or can quickly acquire the skills they need," he said.

"There are enormous benefits in retraining and developing existing staff rather than bringing in someone from overseas," he said.

The ACS said its move follows the "gazettal" of a new regulation by the Government "giving professional societies greater responsibility for setting the standards relating to skilled migration; all professional bodies are now required to set the standards for their members.

"As a result of this change the ACS plans to introduce a requirement for relevant work experience as well as a recognised ICT-related qualification with a high degree of ICT content," he said.

In the wake of a falling IT job market, the Federal Government's move to reduce IT work visas ends a period of priority processing that began on February 1 last year to address a local IT skills shortage.

However, local conditions have changed considerably and Hogg said the Government needs to play a role in improving the current IT job problem.

"One of our concerns in the past was that many of the people coming into Australia under the skilled migrant program wouldn't have qualified as ACS members because of their lack of industry experience or the fact that their tertiary studies didn't include a high enough level of ICT knowledge," he said.

Specifically, it will be compulsory for overseas IT professionals with a degree to have at least four years industry experience in order to join a professional organisation like the ACS, and at least six years work experience for diploma-qualified people.

"By raising the standards for the level of knowledge and industry experience we expect from people applying to emigrate to Australia, we can ensure that those who do arrive on our shores are equipped to make a positive contribution to Australia's ICT sector," he said.

However, the ACS only assesses applications made under the Skilled Migration program and has no control over the quality or experience of people being sponsored into Australia by individual companies.

The ACS is planning to confer with a number of senior government ministers including the Minister for IT and Communications Senator Richard Alston and the Minister for Education, Science and Training Dr Brendan Nelson and other relevant state ministers on its push to tighten the professional standards for overseas IT workers, Hogg said.

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