ICT industry faces skills shortage in the thousands: Recruiters

Clarius skills index points to worker shortfall in September quarter

The Australian ICT industry is facing a shortfall of 2700 computing professionals, adding to a looming skills shortage, according to one ICT recruitment firm.

According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and Department Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), national workforce supply fell by 7200 employees in the July to September quarter. Companies were demanding 5200 less workers in the quarter, but a shortfall of 2700 professionals remained in the sector.

The findings, presented in the latest Clarius Skills Index (PDF), indicated a possible oversupply of skills in the previous two quarters had caused the shortfall while Candle executive general manager, Linda Trevor, said the shortage could be attributed to the lead up and delays of the Federal Election on 21 August.

“The recent Federal election had a sobering impact on the ICT sector, causing hiring activity to drop off a little and slowing the hiring process,” Trevor said in a statement. “But that is now picking up in all states.”

As a result of the forecast skills shortage, IT managers have been warned not to be complacent about their staff, and advised to respond to staff needs in order to keep them in a competitive environment where loyalty is faltering.

According to Trevor, retention strategies were more important than ever to prevent staff from defecting to competitors.

“There have already been wage increases of between five and ten per cent across the industry with evidence of 20 per cent hikes in Western Australia,” she said.

Current industry factors, including the rollout of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and emerging technologies such as the cloud, are also driving the demand for skills in the coming months.

“The pressure is already mounting on companies to compete for good IT professionals in both contract and permanent sectors driving those wage numbers,” Trevor said.

In addition, employers are increasing looking to convert contracting staff to permanent roles to secure them to their business, with a recent survey from Hudson ICT finding hiring confidence in the IT industry has grown to net 44 per cent, indicating employer’s intentions to increase permanent staff levels in the coming quarter.

“A tendency of employers converting contractors to permanent staff is consistent across all regions, particularly the larger cities as companies move to shore up talent long term and diminish the prospect of losing short term contractors,” Trevor said.

Despite the shortage in skills, the survey indicated that employers were reluctant to hire older IT professionals, while budget constraints had forced companies to hire less experienced staff.

“There is evidence of age discrimination in the Information Communications and Technology sector, with bias towards younger workers being more favourable in the eyes of some employers,” she said.

“This could largely be driven by the perception that younger workers have more current and advanced technical skills with the older work force skill set becoming dated.”

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