Only foreign workers can solve govt IT skills crisis

Only foreign workers can solve govt IT skills crisis

Summary: Not enough migrant workers are being hired to work in public service IT, which is contributing to a government-wide ICT skills shortage, according to a report by the Australian Government Information Management Office.


Not enough migrant workers are being hired to work in public service IT, which is contributing to a government-wide ICT skills shortage, according to a report by the Australian Government Information Management Office.

The report, entitled Meeting the demand for ICT skills in the Australian public service -- now and in the future suggested that more effort should be made across the public service to recruit workers from abroad.

According to the report, in 2005/06, around 4,500 management and information professionals were nominated by employers under long-stay business visas, but fewer than 20 went on to be hired by the public service.

The complexity of obtaining the necessary security clearance for migrant workers and confusion over government policy are partially to blame for the lack of foreign staff being hired, the report said.

The report goes on to recommend "agencies are provided with clear advice on the process for engaging non-Australian citizens and that a whole-of-government approach or means of streamlining the process be investigated."

Hiring more workers from abroad is just one of the measures the report believes can help solve the government ICT skills shortage: it also proposes action to tackle the falling number of students enrolling in IT courses at universities.

The government is hoping to make IT more attractive by changing the traditional perception of an IT worker as someone "sitting alone, computer bound, programming all day" into someone who is a business-savvy professional with project management and soft skills.

Some universities have already been introducing business-flavoured IT courses, including the University of Queensland, which has launched combined degrees such as ICT with economics or ICT with business.

"Universities stand to gain a lot by incorporating business skills into ICT courses as it will make ICT more attractive to potential students by balancing the technical load and will deliver strong graduates to the industry," the report notes.

Government agencies have already begun talks with higher education institutions over changing courses to include more business-focused modules, alongside traditional technology training, to help with future public service tech needs.

However, senior politicians recently hit out at the government's IT skills policy.

Speaking last week in Sydney, Labor communications spokesperson Stephen Conroy said: "Australia is facing a skills crisis in the sector. We need to think of the pipeline effect that will have in the next couple of years. It's only going to get worse."

Topics: Government, Government AU, IT Employment

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  • Second the motion

    I can confirm this with several years of inside experience. Often IT shops will hire in migrant workers simply because they are cheap, which forces Australian IT staff to either match the low rate or be out of work. The only reason these migrants are putting in such low rates is to get their foot in the door and they are quite happy to work for next to nothing just to have a job on their resume.

    Unfortunately their inability to comprehend the english language, compounded with the high level of communication required in IT often means they fail miserably at the job and are not given continued employment (hence figures shown above).

    By the time they have left, they have driven down the rates for skilled workers, left a trail of failed projects in their wake and moved on somewhere else.
  • What a joke!

    ... and, if you're not getting ripped off by the employment agencies, you're probably tied to draconian public service pay scales that don't compare to what private enterprise offers. Oh, but of course, we work for the love of it, not because we need to feed our families or pay mortgages.
  • Foreign labour is a security risk

    First, I have worked as a trainer for Microsoft, a PM for DELL and been in IT for 16 years. I know of many guys that have the skills to do the work but don't work for the gov because of two reasons.

    The gov always tries to force permanent roles, because it makes heads of departments look good for saving money, but many highly skilled people are contractors. And the gov's contract rates are poor at best. Teltra, IBM, EDS and the GOV are well known the pay extremely poor market rates for contractors. So they cry and say there is a skills shortage. Big business is all about exploitation of cheap labor to make profit.

    So like the last user said, this will force market rates down for labor, only the share holders and directors will benefit. As a rule of thumb I will not have anything to do with these companies now as I feel they are traitors to Australia, PS I am from NZ but support this country 100%, when I did apply for gov positions a long time ago I was rejected because of the security clearance issue. The rate was about $400 a day, compared to other companies paying 500 to 600 per day, so yep, I got a job with these other places.

    Before I say the next thing I will let you all know I am also security certified. I was able to hack my encrypted Commbank account (told commank about it, but always slow to react) and I do have a good background in security.

    So what happens, they will let people in from China and other places, look at China for example, its a merging supper power, I have lived in this country, and its gov is ruthless, and I am sure they will have no trouble placing their IT people into Aus gov infrastructure.

    Think about what can happen, lets look at what they can get, well they can get every detail of every person that lives in this country. These details can destroy lives, identity theft, which I consider as no protection what so ever in Australia, is a good example.

    Critical economic data that can be used against Australia

    Defense system data, what happens when another country knows every defense movement of your country, they have a first strike advantage

    China is an example, but many countries around the world have to be watched. I am from NZ, I am not an activist, I am just Mr normal Joe Blogs and I do believe that even as a NZ citizen I should only get work in an Australian government department if I am an Australian citizen, why? because for one reason this shows that I am willing to say I am Australian, and willing to accept this country 100%, but even as a citizen I feel its still risky. People need to be screened, and this rule should never be relaxed.
  • Hear Hear

    I totally agree...IT skills shortage? Perhaps if employers were willing to employ a more creative approach to their IT recruitment and consider giving candidates with potential an opportunity rather than just stone walling them we would make some inroads here
  • Work for the Government in Canberra? Yeah right..

    Perhaps they should have development centres in most/all capital cities not just Canberra? Who wants to relocate to Canberra? Not me for one. They would probably also cut costs as they no longer would need to pay people's relocation expenses and could also move resources between states as needed as I believe the IT sector's performance is on a per state basis so when one state is too expensive, move development to another state etc. I cannot believe the number of Federal Government departments trying to recruit people into Canberra.
  • ...not true at all

    Foreign workers is not a solution for GOVT IT Skills Shortage. In my opinion there are various factors which makes it difficult to get a job
    * Most of the jobs demand Australian experience
    * most of the job requirements ask too many technical skills which is really impossible
    * Not competitive pays

    I would recommend hiring more graduates and train them acording to the organization's requirements rather than hiring foreign workers. Most of the "foreign workers" were graduate recruitees and then they have built their skills. I have not heard of campus recruitments in Australia. Graduate recruitments is quite different to campus recruitment. campus recruitment will really create interest in students taking up the courses in IT. Even if each IT company recruit atleast 2 students through campus recruitment and train them according to their requirements it will really reduce the skills shortage
  • reply to ...not true at all

    Mate I dont know what you've been hearing but the number of people studying IT at university has drastically decreased over the last few years so recruiting graduates from university wont do much. Perhaps more $ is the only option (obviously not to dot-com boom levels)?
  • Don't forget lack of PS management skills

    Don't forget that when you go from private enterprise to the public service IT shops you have to deal with a whole array of mistaken ideas about how projects and IT should be run. Many senior public service managers try to run IT on shoe string budgets, and then get upset when projects don't meet expectations. They like to micromanage. It one of the reasons salaries are so low. They refuse of accept reality.

    How many departments need a $500K person as their CIO but are only willing to pay $180K? Guess who they will get.
  • utter bs

    utter bs

    ive worked for 16 yrs in IT in everything from tier 1 vendors, thru to the channel and customers...

    the one thing common is that companies just dont want to train their staff, and in the constantly changing IT field, thats just an absolute joke.

    there's only a shortage of two things

    (a) companies who will train their staff and

    (b) companies who will pay their staff appropriately.

    i also notice that john howard wants to increase the retirement age to 67 .. i can just see IT companies clamouring to get aboard some 65 yr olds...

    i cant see a future in IT beyond 40 except for roles that like a bit of the grey look , e.g. management etc....
  • Govt. work

    Having never worked for a government department, I can't really comment on the internal factors effecting their staff retention, but I can tell you why I would never work for the government:
    1. Pay
    2. Pay
    3. Pay
    4. The stigma of working for the government
    5. Long hiring process

    They have image problems. Too much red tape and are typically late to the party technologically.

    There is no "skills shortage", there's a "people willing to work for government departments shortage".
  • Insterstate shops are expensive and wasteful

    I've seen first hand what happens when a federal government department tries to set up an IT shop outside Canberra.

    Its expensive. You have to set up a new office and get a hole lot of people to understand the government's approach. Then when it is going you have to deal with the attitude of Canberrans who feel threatened by the interstate shop's existence and won't share information. Management spend vast amounts flying back and forth from Canberra.

    Millions go down the tube with hardly any code being written.

    Sure, it can and has been done, but it isn't a cheap solution.
  • The AGMO need's a good departmental cutback!

    Has anyone actually read this AGMO report?

    It's nothing short of terrible!

    If a Year 11 student did his report, I'd give them a C-.

    It's poorly written, with illogical argument's and uncircumstantiated evidence.

    For example, offers a comparison between "Baby Boomers" and "Gen X/Y'ers" to provide reasons for an "IT skills shortage".

    It's not nearly useable in any fashion.

    I think the reasons as to why the AGMO was assigned to write such a report has been lost.

    I hope they are regretting they wrote it, as they sure will during the election.

    Poor use of tax payer's money!
  • AGIMO not AGMO

    Apologies, the department is named AGIMO.

    An additional concern is that the bulk of this reports references are from articles written by the major recruitment agencies.

    So it's a government report that heavily references information provided to them from recruitment agencies.
  • They are kidding right?

    Working in IT in defence I have seen first hand the way that they do IT. They outsource it to a company that offers wages that are just above the poverty line and wonder why people leave. They then try to fill the gap with knuckle draging morons who were cleaners one week and IT experts the next. The problem is no one cares!
    In government no one in management cares if a system is down because it does not have to turn a profit. If a company gets an IT support contract they have hit the jackpot, they only have to play lip service to the contract and they can employ any moron they want.
  • Recruitment practices

    Whilst there is certainly an element of truth in the salary levels in gov't being less attractive and therefore reducing the number of applicants my expereince is that their applications system is so specialised that it seems you have to know someone on the inside to stand a chance.

    I applied for a senior role to help deliver ITIL and sis not get an interview. I was shocked by this and so called to ask for feedback.

    I was informed that although I was more qualified and had more experience than the applicant that won the position I had not completed the application in the way they like it done and so could not be interviewed!!

    To add to that they added that there are 2 books available to help people to complete the application in the 'approved' manner.

    There are two problems here. The first of course is overseas applicants are not likely to know about the approved method of application nor the fact that there are books to help. The bigger problem however is the acceptance that a sysytem is knowingly excluding quality candidates because the application is not formatted in their style!

    Incredible. That is why the IT provision is poor, it all starts with some mad HR policy.
  • Overpaid Aus Contractors

    It's not that there is a shortage in local skills, it's that the local skills demand too much to do the job. $100/hr to switch a pc on? what the. I think if we continue to over price ourselves, we are going to shoot ourselves in the foot, as most of the work will be outsourced overseas, or overseas people will be brought in.

    I worked at a place where the DBA asked for more cash, company didn't give it to him, he left, the company got a recent indian graduate to do the job on a temp visa. The guy who left the company is still looking for another job.
  • Government IT

    Don't ever work for Government IT.

    The staff (customers) treat you're hired help seemingly able to boss you around, demean you and attack you personally. Of course, every IT problem in the department is your fault and they hate you for it.

    The lifetime of an IT worker is about 5 years, after that they get sick of the abuse and slot into some management/admin job.
  • Rubbish

    Why make such outlandish claims? No-one gets paid $100 per hour to turn computers on.

    More likely is someone getting paid $35 per hour to do work that's critical to the department, while glorified clerks rake in $120,000. Then those contractors get replaced by an Indian after three months and can't get another job.
  • IT profession creates own reality

    I would suggest that the IT industry promote generalist skill-sets rather than flog the old specialist bandwagon. This may be heinous to some old-timers, but may make IT more attractive to the young, and buffer against staff shortages.
  • Offshore workers for government IT

    As a 30 Year+ veteran in ICT , current in technology who is suffering age discrimination in the workplace (mostly caused by feral HR employees, anxious to take over the industry, what sort of rubbish is this? Time and time again, Government agencies advertise for vacancies and then appoint internal appointees after someone like myself applies for a job and is refused. We don't need migrant workers any more than we need discrimination against Australian workers who are supposedly protected by Equal Employment Opportunity laws