Opinion: Federal ICT careers to be hit by both parties

Both parties have promised things that will hurt opportunities going forward

Political party promises during the election campaign to slash public sector employment, dismember NBN Co and raid the Gershon re-investment fund are leaving ICT professionals with a stark choice.

On the one hand the Coalition's plan to cut the number of public sector workers is creating fears of potential degradation of the quality of Federal agency services.

Since the Gershon Review recommended cutting the number of ICT contractors, there has been a migration towards full-time employees in agency IT departments.

Should the Coalition win power, it is likely a number of these positions will be made redundant, leaving agencies with the choice of recommencing the use of contractors and shouldering the burden of that cost, or shelving IT projects or dropping service levels.

However, as the Coalition have pegged their entire policy strategy towards reducing debt, it is unlikely they would approve an increase in spending on contractors in the short term.

For Labor's part, they have announced they will raid a much needed Gershon re-investment fund, stripping it of almost half the potential money (close to $450 million) and forcing agencies to drastically adjust their foward IT planning.

This too will have a significant impact on headcounts and will shrink the opportunities for ICT staff looking to enter the Federal space.

The much-discussed and criticised Opposition broadband policy will also have a direct impact on the hundreds already working for NBN Co, the forward opportunities for those that wanted to work for the company, and also for contractors picking up contracts from the national broadband network (NBN).

The saving grace for Labor and the Greens on this front is their support for the NBN, which many such as SMS Management & Technology, believe will stimulate the ICT market. Yet, as I have mentioned previously, unless the government of the day links the NBN with development policies in other industries, they will fail to optimise the potential returns and opportunities for ICT professionals.

In short, if you look at the job opportunities for ICT professionals, neither party is offering a rosy vision. Unfortunately, while both tout productivity gains in their respective economic approaches, they have failed to realise the enormous power ICT holds in this regards.

Indeed unlike the US, Japan and even UK of old and the growing economies of China and India, Australia has a distinct lack of foist on seriously building up the ICT - and broader science, engineering and maths - workforce. Something that was recently lamented by leaders at two of our biggest banks and a point that will sorely remain salient post-election.

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