Budget 2010: ICT gets cold shoulder on skills

Industry body disappointed ICT not specifically included in Skills funding, despite chronic issues

The ICT sector may have missed out on a share of a new $200 million Critical Skills Investment Fund announced as part of the Budget.

In addition to the fund, the Federal Government last night announced it would create 39,000 new training places in sectors facing high skills demand.

It highlighted the construction, infrastructure, renewable energy and resource sectors as priority markets.

No mention was made of the ICT sector despite recruitment firms and analysts warning of a skills shortage in the industry for some time.

Computerworld Australia has contacted the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations for further clarification but is yet to receive a response.

Australian Computer Society (ACS) CEO, Bruce Lakin, said the result and failure to specifically mention ICT, was disappointing considering the recently released Henry Tax Review noted the importance of the industry to the economy.

“Here is the first Budget after the Henry Review and ICT commitment is noticeable for its absence,” Lakin said. “We kind of think they could have done a whole lot more. We are appreciative of what they are offering but there should have been more in quantum and it should have been much more specific. We in the industry have given them in a number of ways a clear request for support for ICT. That is a bit of a beat up but we think the criticism is deserved.”

Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO, Ian Birks, also noted the lack of an ICT mention, but said as ICT underpinned most industries, there would be positive outcomes out of the announcement.

“The fact it is funding many new training positions, I believe there is some part of it that would relate to our industry,” Birks said.

In spite of the skills brush off, both industry bodies noted there were several positives in the Budget.

“The support for SME is a good thing because largely the ICT sector is an SME sector,” Lakin noted. That will help a number of the practitioners in the industry.”

Birks and Lakin agreed the decision to spend $652 million Renewable Energy Future Fund was a good sign.

“The way it was explained was very much around the deployment of new technologies to address our carbon footprint,” Birks said. “So I think there is a substantial opening for ICT products to play a role.”

Additionally, the move to funnel $466.7 million to the development of a “personally controlled electronic health records” was welcomed.

“We will wait and see the detail of that, but it is great to have electronic health records on the agenda and funding defined for it,” Birks said. “There will have to be a lot of work done on privacy and security and addressing those concerns. I am sure there will be quite a substantial public debate around it but it is good to have it there.”

In a statement, Australian Industry Group chief executive, Heather Ridout, also greeted the e-health announcement warmly.

"The large new expenditure for health - especially the heath records measure - are welcome and important investments in health which Ai Group has strongly advocated,” she said.

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