Industry groups have welcomed the federal government’s additional funding to encourage students to become more involved in ICT education.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy launched on Wednesday a new digital strategy for Australia to become a “leading” digital economy by 2020.
It includes a new curriculum for school students that will include subjects on digital technologies and design technologies to be taught to students from year 8.
The federal government will also provide funding to National ICT Australia to develop programs that promote ICT careers to students and funding for the national expansion of Queensland organisation Group X, an ICT initiative that encourages young peoples’ involvement in the industry.
The Australian Computer Society (ACS) welcomed the rollout of the Group X careers program on a national basis.
Group X involves a partnership with the ACS, NICTA, the NSW government, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), 10 universities and industry participants.
The ICT industry has been grappling with declining ICT student rates for some time, with ACS CEO Alan Patterson welcoming the funding.
“Inspiring school children to pursue a career in ICT goes to the heart of ensuring we have the skills in the future to take full advantage of the digital age,” he said.
“The challenges in nurturing and sustaining our digital economy are as complex as the challenges the digital age itself creates. The ACS has been urging all stakeholders to develop holistic policy responses to these challenges as technology now touches almost every aspect of our lives.”
Suzanne Campbell, AIIA CEO, also welcomed the some $6 million in additional funding over four years to address ICT education, saying it would provide a boost to the industry.
“ICT underpins every aspect of contemporary life. It has transformed the way we work, communicate, collaborate and connect with our communities and each other. It drives business transformation and innovation across all sectors,” she said.
“The Digital Careers program, which builds on the successful Queensland Group X pilot and focuses on engaging with young people from years 5 to 10, is about both increasing awareness of the role of ICT across all careers and growing an internationally competitive ICT capability.”
NICTA will co-ordinate the Digital Careers program.
Simon Kaplan, NICTA’s director of skills and industry transformation, said it would expand current events which have proven successful, such as the robotics competition Robocup, the EXITE camps for girls in technology and the Young ICT Explorers program.
Kaplan has led the Group X pilot in Queensland since 2007 and will lead the national program. He said there has been a 50 per cent increase in ICT enrolments in the state.
“If Australia fails to establish a critical mass of imaginative, creative, digitally-literate graduates, we will never be internationally competitive. There is no reason that we shouldn’t have a vibrant, entrepreneurial digitally-enabled economy,” Kaplan said.
“We need to take the many successful educational programs that have been rolled out on a small scale around Australia, and amplify them.”
Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0