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More people need to study IT: report

Sylvia Pennington (via SMH) | July 10, 2013
Australia needs to produce more technology professionals to avert a shortage in skills, according to a new report.

Photo: Louise Kennerley

ITAustralia's productivity agency has called for more young people to be funneled into the technology sector to avert a major skills shortage, despite half of young graduates choosing not to work in the industry. 

Released Tuesday, the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency's ICT Workforce Study suggests the IT workforce needs to expand from the bottom up, if Australia is to benefit from technological innovation.

AWPA Chief Executive Robin Shreeve warned of impending skills shortages and the likelihood of more foreign workers being required to make up the shortfall if Australia's talent pool did not increase.

The report recommends enhancing the quality of ICT teaching in schools and developing an online ICT module for secondary students. It comes as new figures from the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations show 51 per cent of 20-29 year olds with ICT qualifications weren't working in the industry in 2011.

A charm offensive which would "encourage ICT professionals to visit schools to discuss their exciting careers and engage with students and teachers in ongoing discussion through social media, blogs and forums" is recommended.

The report found women have less than 20 per cent of the jobs in the sector and recommended greater commitment to boost representation of both women and older workers in the area.

It also called for the creation of more work-integrated learning and development programs, an ICT skills conversion programs for graduates from other disciplines and the introduction of a professional year for new graduates, similar to the professional year for accountants.

Around 460,000 people currently work in the sector, according to the ABS, but the number of students graduating from tertiary ICT studies has dropped from 9093 in 2003 to 4547 last year. Mr Shreeve said ICT did not appear to be as attractive an industry as one might think.

"Frankly we need to up the supply [of workers]," he said.

The importation of skilled workers on 457 visas and the offshoring of work to developing countries, have become flashpoints for the sector in recent times. Some ICT workers believe the practices have eroded local salaries and opportunities and are deterring young people from pursuing high tech careers.

Telstra yesterday announced plans to export 170 jobs from its network applications and services, its cloud division, to India by October, a move which mirrors the actions of other organisations, including Westpac and ANZ.

Meanwhile, the number of ICT workers on 457 visas has risen from 5327 in 2009-10 to 9271 in 2011-12. Employers say skills shortages force them to look abroad but many workers believe the scheme is more about cutting costs than finding talent that's not available at home.


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