Westpac chief information officer (CIO) Clive Whincup has said that companies who want better IT graduates ought to work more closely with tertiary institutions, to develop more applicable courses for students.
Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event in Sydney yesterday about the skills shortage facing the Australian technology sector, he said that Australian companies ought to work with universities to build courses that teach business-appropriate content.
He said that, when he speaks to the university graduates who enter Westpac, he's often surprised to find that many of them are ill-equipped for the tasks they need to complete.
"I talk to all of our graduate intake into Westpac technology, and what I increasingly see is ... insufficient awareness of a business environment, and business applications of the skills that they learn in universities.
"All too often, it's quite a shocking experience for our grads to realise that there are aspects of technology, that are everyday features and facts of life in a large organisation, which they simply have not encountered in any of their previous academic experience," he said.
Whincup said that he would happily work with tertiary institutions to build more appropriate courses for students looking to get a job in the financial services technology sector.
"My belief is that [universities and the industry] need to collaborate much closer on content for some of the courses — particularly, perhaps, elective courses, which are much more business-focused — and prepare our graduates and our students earlier, for the kinds of things they're going to be asked to do with technologies, when they do actually enter the workforce. I'm personally very willing to do that."
Whincup added that universities could shoulder some of the blame for inadequate education, saying that institutions rarely listen to the feedback of their alumni.
"I do feel as well, that universities make insufficient use of their alumni once they do enter the workforce, because actually [listening to] the experience that new graduates entering the workforce is the key to understanding how their academic preparation can help them introduce their skills into the workforce.
"Those are the people that know, specifically, what the issues are. I really enjoy talking to grads and young people. And they, for some reason, really enjoy talking to me. That's the key."
Whincup said that the supply of skilled technology workers in Australia will always outpace demand, adding that, as a result, Westpac felt comfortable tapping contractors for IT work.
"If we look at the increasing demand for technology skills in Australia, it's become clear that we will never produce enough technologists to fulfil our own internal demand. Just as in any other industry, a direct consequence of that, is that we will tap into global supply chains to fulfil that," he said.
Westpac has previously been criticised by unions for its "best sourcing" program, which sees the bank outsource some of its technology jobs.