A new survey by IT recruitment firm, Greythorn, of almost 3,000 IT professionals suggests that the Australian information technology sector is heading towards a "huge" skills shortage within the next five years.
The survey, which was carried out during May found that the number of respondents aged under 30 working in IT is only six percent. By contrast, the same survey carried out in 2011 showed that those aged below comprised 18 percent of the whole, representing a 66 percent decline in three years.
The survey also indicated that Australia was at risk of losing what IT professional workforce it had to opportunities overseas, with around 66 percent of IT professionals under 30 stating that they would consider a move internationally if a suitable opportunity arose.
According to Greythorn, the combined impact of fewer graduates entering the IT industry and more graduates considering leaving would further compound the skills shortage highlighted in the research.
For Greythorn's Asia Pacific managing director, Richard Fischer, the country could face a substantial shortage of IT professionals by 2020 unless a concerted effort is made to promote the industry.
"IT must be promoted more at grass-roots level to ensure there is a talent pool available in coming years," said Fischer. "With an ageing population and fewer young candidates entering the IT industry, Australia could face a crippling skills shortage by 2020."
According to Fischer, moves made by the federal government to encourage development in the sector have been encouraging, even if the final outcomes of government initiatives are not yet clear.
"It's reassuring to see the government acting to try to address the impending IT shortages through its graduate programs," said Fischer. "It will be interesting to see what impacts these have in the coming years."
The government initiatives include the federal government's ICT Apprenticeship program, the Cadetship and Graduate Program, and the on a state level, the Victorian Government's ICT Workforce Development Plan.
The survey also found that almost 30 percent of under-30s said they had never had formal training in their role, and 66 percent had undertaken self-funded study to progress their work skills. This is despite finding that work-funded training was the most appealing employment benefit among workers under the age of 30.
According to Greythorn, IT sector employers could attract young talent if they offered training as part of their benefits packages.
Greythorn's survey results come after data from the Department of Employment published earlier this year showed that, in general, information and communication technology roles being advertised in Australia were on the rise, with programming roles in February up by 10 percent.
According the latest Skills Shortages Australia report by the Australian Department of Employment, which was updated as recently as February from data compiled in 2013, there is no skills shortage in the ICT sector in Australia.
"Demand for ICT professionals is subdued and employers have little difficulty recruiting workers who meet their skill level expectations," the report said, also stating that competition from qualified applicants to available IT sector vacancies was "robust".