Skills shortage persists despite jobs shrinkage

Monash IT managing director John Dowell has boldly declared Australia has an IT skills shortage and that outsourcing is simply a red herring.

“Don’t look at individuals,” Dowell said. “From an industry view there are new technologies being introduced and more focus on planning and analysis where there is still a skills shortage, especially in IT infrastructure management.”

Dowell cited wireless, IT security, .Net, and Linux as new technologies that IT professionals need skills to address the shortage.

“There are too many assumptions that IT security people have all the required skills,” he said. “For example, firewalls need management and skills to run. And IT security is not given as much importance as it should; there is a lot of rhetoric but nothing is being done.”

Monash IT, a training spin-off of Monash University, offers some 150 IT short courses and opened a new training centre in January this year.

Dowell not only identifies the emergence of new technologies as contributing to a skills shortage, but also believes there's a lack of expertise in “new issues” like business integration.

“General industries rely on IT for running their business and individuals who keep themselves up to date will always be in demand,” he said. “There are no big boom projects, but there are jobs out there.”

Although Dowell conceded that there has been shrinkage in the jobs market, he says that if you are skilled you will always be in demand.

“Faults lie with the lack of skills,” he said. “IT is still a good industry, it will get better, but people just need to work harder.”

Dowell said one way to ensure you stay employable is to mix technical and soft skills, because the two “work together”.

He said there are many project management and business analysis roles out there because a lot of companies are at the planning stage. “We get non-technical business analysts doing IT courses and also have financial management courses for IT professionals.”

Dowell said it's too early to judge the impact yet of whether offshore outsourcing resolves the shortage in some skills or cuts into the local job market

“Companies have always outsourced but instead of using a local, overseas-based company they are going to India. Let’s see some results,” he said. “I was involved with IT outsourcing and there is still a need to manage projects and the barriers of distance, communication, and culture are there. I wonder how successful it is.”

Dowell said a lot of IT requires policies and procedures to be identified and managed. “How can you do that overseas?” he asked.

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