As business confidence is recovering after the global financial crisis, skills supply and workforce retention remain the greatest challenges impeding the success of our nation’s economy. The development of a highly skilled workforce is crucial to Australia. If we are to compete globally and to develop innovative services and products, we must address challenges. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector is the key driver of economic growth and underpins many of Australia’s best performing industries.
We don’t have an immediate ICT skills crisis in Australia, but we do have specific skills gaps. The skills gaps are the result of a flow effect of a rapidly changing technology landscape where skills demands change swiftly. Training and development are core requirements for professionals. The demand for ICT professionals will continue to increase in the next decade as the NBN is established and the digital economy grows. We know that ICT is essential for the day-to-day operations of all businesses in every sector of the economy. As our reliance on ICT and the information intensity of non-ICT roles increases so will the demand for ICT professionals to support continued productivity growth in our economy. There will also be an increasing expectation that skills and experience be verified. This helps to provide quality assurance to businesses and employers who depend on the outcomes created by these professionals. It will also be required as part of our competitive response to offshore opportunities.
We need ICT professionals to be seen as qualified specialists — so that in the same way you would identify the credentials of a doctor, lawyer or accountant, you can identify an ICT professional’s credentials. Certification of ICT practitioners enhances the overall reputation and impact of our industry — not only amongst Australian employers, but also our international business targets. It is the best risk mitigation strategy for business and allows Australia’s ICT industry to maintain a high standard of professionalism.
Professionalism is key to ensuring a viable ICT industry in Australia and it is part of a growing trend worldwide and within other industry sectors. It is beyond qualifications. It’s about creating and maintaining an industry culture which maintains high ethical standards and values as well as regularly-updated skills. There is a constant exchange of information and ideas and ICT professionals are accountable and responsible for their actions. The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has been working in collaboration with other professional societies, through bodies such as the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), to establish an international benchmark in ICT. This ensures Australian ICT professionals’ capabilities are recognised and that they are rewarded for their contribution to our ICT industry.
The ACS Certified Professional (CP) Program puts Australian ICT professionals on equal footing with the other, more established occupations. With a CP certification, Australian ICT professionals must adhere to delivering a recognisable higher standard of ICT, demonstrating a commitment to stay on top of technological developments.
Global accreditation will help deliver the workforce needed to enhance productivity that India and other countries will be looking for in coming years. It will facilitate the mobility of skills, enable international experience and encourage greater flexibility and diversity in the global ICT workforce.
Ensuring a skills supply and retaining a highly-skilled workforce will ultimately rely on encouraging our youth to enter ICT careers, catering for the mature worker, providing options for women to remain in the workforce for longer and increasing and improving the recognition of ICT professionals. Lifting the profile and the perceived value of the ICT professional within the Australian economy and business culture will increase the appeal of the sector to potential employees — locally and globally — and lift the remuneration and reward for these professionals.
Bruce Lakin is ACS chief executive officer.