Despite concern from universities around the splitting of the education portfolio under the Gillard Government’s new Cabinet, ICT industry organisations have welcomed the move.
Australian Computer Society (ACS) chief executive, Bruce Lakin, said the organisation welcomed the increased focus on education through having more than one minister looking after the full spectrum from early childhood, to higher education to research.
“The increased focus on skills and jobs beyond education is positive and has potential to improve ICT skills,” he told Computerworld Australia. “Graduates, at times are considered less than work ready by the industry.”
However, Lakin noted that it was important that there be a coordinated approach across the split ministries to develop policies, implement initiatives and to ensure a successful ICT skills and career pathway for the ICT profession.
“As there is more than one minister handling education related matters, further clarification on who is "the go to minister" on specific initiatives will be useful to stakeholders,” he said.
“We would like to see stronger course articulation between school, VET, university and industry to ensure that the skills ICT graduates are learning, match with those that are in demand.”
Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) chief executive Ian Birks said the reshuffle now meant there was a “clear entry point” for the ongoing discussion about the current shortage of ICT skills in Australia.
“To be frank that conversation has had limited impact over the last few years, and I suspect that it is likely to be given a higher order of focus through the NBN and digital economy rollout,” he said.
“While the education minister is important, and the industry must engage with that minister to get an understanding of the situation, there is as much likely hood that the momentum will come from the NBN-digital economy side.”
Conroy’s digital productivity portfolio a smart move
Both the ACS and the AIIA noted that the addition of the Minister Assisting the PM on Digital Productivity portfolio to communications minister, Senator Stephen Conory, was a positive.
The AIIA’s Birks said the appointment of Conroy to the new portfolio was a “tremendous opportunity” for the key messages of the ICT industry to get more widely disseminated within higher levels of government and agencies.
“We find it hard as an industry to engage with the health department, the education department or with energy agencies, so this minister and portfolio is a great opportunity to drive these issues to the advantage of our industry,” he said.
The ACS’s Lakin said the move would firmly link productivity with ICT, some thing the ACS had been calling on for some time.
“We are pleased to see Minister Conroy’s portfolio given a whole of government focus,” he said. “It would also be great to have further clarification on what elements form the digital productivity focus. We hope that this focus will lead to establishing a clearer digital economy framework.”