IT surge to leave Western Sydney 3000 workers short

The booming hi tech economy in Sydney's outer western suburbs is at least 3000 jobs short, according to an audit by the University of Western Sydney and Grow Employment Council.

The survey, the first of its kind, finds IT equipment, infrastructure and deployment of e-commerce applications in Penrith well above the Australian average, but 3000 job vacancies in hi tech or related industries exist because employers cannot find skilled applicants.

Its results show Penrith should start planning now for a surge in IT investment similar to the early years of Silicon Valley.

National Institute of Economic Research forecasts predict IT industries in western Sydney will grow at least 50 per cent to be worth $200 million in the next five years.

To support the industry Penrith MP and Minister for Sport and Recreation Jackie Kelly announced federal funding of $198,000 to speed the development of a supercomputer network at the University of Western Sydney, and to support and promote an interactive network of innovative IT companies based around the university's campus at Kingswood.

"This project will mean that Penrith will be a centre for excellence in IT," Kelly said.

"Those involved should be proud of a great effort that will bring up to 100 high tech jobs to our area within the next three years, and up to 1000 jobs within the next five years. The type of jobs being created are in IT support, software development, training, hospitality and other service industries."

Kelly said this development is vital because the area's economic future is in IT and appealed to young people, particularly women, to give IT the consideration it deserved. "The traditional jobs are not the future," she said.

The supercomputer network - or High Performance Computer Node (CHPCN)- should go online at the campus early next year. Professor Trevor Cairney, director of UWS Centre for Regional Research and Innovation, told The Daily Telegraph: "We will create an industry strategy based around the opportunities the HPCN will create in training and business research to develop a high-performance computing cluster where IT industries help each other and can be supported.

"It will provide a different level of computing power and will, from the business's own backyards, give access to one of the most powerful computer networks operating in the world today (the Australian Centre for Advanced Computing and Communication)."

Regional NSW including the Hunter, Illawarra and Central West also stands to benefit with Penrith set to become a model for the creation of a series of HPCN networks.

But Cairney said the challenge remained for universities, TAFE and, in particular, schools to train young people in the skills needed for the new economy.

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