JobWatch: fixing the ICT shortfall

JobWatch: fixing the ICT shortfall

Summary: Australia: not enough skilled workers, or not enough workers with the right skills?

TOPICS: IT Employment

Recruiters have been saying for some time that despite economic uncertainty, there's still a shortfall of suitably qualified people to fill ICT jobs. Time, then, to return to Australia's historic solution to labour shortages: fly them in.

Applications for 457 visas (the long-stay business visa that originally brought me to this country) are up by one third. There were 39,390 applications in the seven months to January 2012, up from 29,040 for the same period one year earlier.

As you might imagine, the biggest jump has been to meet the insatiable thirst of the construction and mining industries. There's also the continued shortage of nurses in an ageing Australia. Alongside these skill shortages, information media and telecommunications continues to be an in-demand category that requires us to look offshore.

(Credit: Phil Dobbie/ZDNet Australia)

Peter Noblet, from recruitment firm Hays, is not so sure that migration is entirely the answer. He says, "While it is widely recognised that migration is vital to ensuring economic growth and overcoming skills shortages, it is also a topic that generates heated discussion."

The current wave of redundancies is surely helping to fuel that debate. Why go overseas when major recruiters like Vodafone and Optus are laying off staff? The answer is likely that there's a structural shift in the types of roles demanded. Overall, demand is still strong for the sector, but people have the wrong skill sets — we need fewer hardware-maintenance people and more software developers, for example.

If we're not going to ship in the expertise, then we need to build the skill sets locally. Too bad, then, that our education system seems to be heading in the opposite direction. The annual Australian ICT Statistical Compendium, released late last month by the Australian Computer Society (ACS), highlights concerns that Australia's higher ICT education enrolments have halved in the last decade ago, and are continuing to decline.

ACS chief executive Alan Patterson says, "Given the importance of the digital economy to Australia's economic prosperity ... we hope addressing falls in ICT enrolments will be a key focus of 2012 government agendas."

In the meantime, we'll continue to ship in the expertise. There are huge benefits, of course, to employing someone who has broader experience gained elsewhere, but, with an average salary of just $85,000 on offer, it looks like many employers are simply taking middle-ranking workers who will accept less pay for life in the Aussie sunshine. If we're not bringing in highly qualified experts, there's a strong argument that these roles could be filled locally with a little training and an employer focus on in-house development.

Topic: IT Employment


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • It is far easier (and cheaper) to bring in workers, train them up, send them back home and then outsource jobs lock, stock and barrel to their home country then trying to get ICT enrolments up. Furthering digital economy in Straya means spreading a yarn about why NBN is bad and we shouldn't be wasting money on Internet while we have "good enough" technologies at hand.

    Add to that pollies and government workers who play seat warmers for life and then you wonder why we have to keep shipping in the "experts".

    Maybe the solution to this problem is outsourcing politicians - surely that can't be bad ?
    Azizi Khan
  • Aussie G did what they think it best for their budget but not good for the country. PR and TR to make more money for the Federal Gorvement but end up with tons of people with PR and no jobs, this is again a burden for G. I got some of my mates, got Aussie PR and has no job since 2010.
    If looking at Singapore, the first citeria to measure for PR should be you must have a job for at least 2 years then you are eligible to apply. With this policy, Singaporean G found the right skill people for the right job and they can decide whether to keep them or not. This is a more sustainable way of immigration policy.
  • Not one politician, strategist or soothsayer has the slightest clue where off-shoring, and IT outsourcing is heading for Australia - all is motivated by greed, and few understand that the advantage in cost saving is minimal if your competitors are also off-shoring and outsourcing. We are suffering from a double whammy - Offshoring, and on top of that - they come here on 457's and take local jobs.

    Far better for our useless governments to provide motivation to employ local over 45 IT workers by reducing the payroll tax etc and retrain OUR OWN PEOPLE and do something about the appalling and illegal age discrimination in IT - before we allow any more 457's.
    Moray Robertson