Skills shortage risks NBN benefits: NetApp

Skills shortage risks NBN benefits: NetApp

Summary: The IT skills shortage could limit the benefits flowing from Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Peter O'Connor, storage vendor NetApp's vice president for Australia/New Zealand and ASEAN.


The IT skills shortage could limit the benefits flowing from Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Peter O'Connor, storage vendor NetApp's vice president for Australia/New Zealand and ASEAN.

Peter O'Connor

Peter O'Connor
(Credit: NetApp)

"The skills resource in this country is extremely shallow and getting shallower," O'Connor told media and analysts in Sydney yesterday, echoing recent comments from ANZ chief information officer Anne Weatherston and TechnologyOne executive chairman Adrian Di Marco.

"When you look at a roll out like the NBN, there's not going to be the skills to take advantage of that investment," he said.

O'Connor puts blame firmly at the feet of the universities for concentrating on full-fee-paying overseas students, who return to their home country upon graduation.

"It's causing untold damage to our industry," he said.

The skills shortage comes at a time when Australia is seeing massive growth in the need for skilled IT staff.

The value of data storage hardware shipped in Australia by all major vendors grew 61 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to O'Connor. His own company experienced a 32 per cent increase in bookings in 2010-11. NetApp signed 221 new customers in Australia and New Zealand with zero attrition, with 58 per cent of those sales coming through the channel.

"It reminds me a little bit of the dotcom time," O'Connor said, with plenty of start-ups, rapid growth and the potential for sudden failures. "A lot of the same is going to happen here," he said.

NetApp is also seeing a "large increase" in its traction, with systems integrators, particularly those serving government and military customers such as CSC and Lockheed Martin.

To help address the skills shortage, NetApp is negotiating with RMIT University in Melbourne and Canterbury University in New Zealand to make NetApp certification training available as part of their undergraduate courses.

Demand for graduates with NetApp post-sales certifications is now so great that starting salaries of $110,000 to $120,000 are being offered.

O'Connor hopes that more universities will come on-board.

Asked whether NetApp would be encouraging other storage vendors to create similar programs, O'Connor's response was dismissive. "I don't care what those guys do."

NetApp recently scored third place in BRW's 50 best places to work list, something that O'Connor says is "a little bit disappointing; we were the first last year and second the year before."

Topics: IT Employment, Hardware, Servers, Storage


Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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  • I have to strongly disagree with the basic premise of the article. I went through university late 90's and the local enrollments were four times that it is today. IT faculties are strugglely to get the enrollments. The sad fact is IT is not a popular choice for school leavers. Either they think it is a dead end because of outsourcing (which for the higher paid role this isn't the truth) or they just don't understand the demand or roles that are available. They are people that will always will do IT, but what is missing from the enrollments today is the more general people that were part of the enrollments in the 90's - they have left IT for business degrees, etc. The true is as an industry as a whole we have not and don't promote ourselves. Go ask a Year 10 student, and see what they think of IT.

    My views are based upon working for a large IT services company, facing challenges getting skilled resources. Also I am on an industry advisory board for one of the local universities. So I do see both sides of the problem, and frankly blaming universities is at best counter productive. But really just another uniformed opinion.
  • I also strongly disagree.

    I'm also surprised that NetApp's vice president can make comments like this when they aren't even advertising Australian based positions on their website.

    I'm working abroad primarily because of the 'shallow' Australian job market and associated remuneration, far be it from my 'shallow' skill set.

    -- Your search criteria
    (AUSTRALIA - Brisbane OR AUSTRALIA - Canberra OR AUSTRALIA - Melbourne OR AUSTRALIA - Perth OR AUSTRALIA - Sydney)
    -- Your search returned 0 matches.
  • Yes I agree with Stray_dogz, blaming Universities is counter productive. Since I work for a University in the IT industry, I also see the political pressure that follows through from Federal to state Government, students sometimes do not enrol into course that allow them to stay in Australia via study visa after completing a PostGrad Degree. This has never been put forth from a University as it is Government controlled via Skilled workers, yet IT doesn't rank high on Skilled workers.

    So far from Virtualisation we have literally reduce our engery to what it was in 2008, yet our storage has grown, massively with the need for multiple tiers of storage, and massive amount of space i'm talking a couple of petabytes. Higher density racks certainly looking to hit the 1MegaWatt in the next year or two.

    Skills shortage Yes, why, because a Fully Trade certifed Refridgeration Technician can earn 120k plus yet a highly skilled Network and System engineer earns less than 100k, we only do it because we like the drive of technology.

    The "Cloud" Just another buzz word, but yet just outsourcing with another name, but still there are just something you can't shift out there........
  • Skills shortage? I have recently finished my Diploma of IT Networking, and applied for an entry level IT position with QLD police the other week, to find out that 61 other people had applied for the same position! Maybe it is just Brisbane, though the word 'recession' comes to mind when applying for jobs, not 'skills shortage'.
  • Part of the problem is also the attitude of our large IT companies. They are under pressure to generate forever increasing profits (even during down times). As a result, they put in place, permanent training freezes, meaning that young people never advance from university grads to highly skilled IT professionals. Companies are only looking for highly skilled staff, with years of experience, that they can retain until their skills are out of date. Those people leave and the next lot get hired. Rinse and repeat.

    Grad programs are no longer seen as an opportunity to mold young people into great IT professionals, but rather a way of getting cheap labour for low skilled IT roles (testing, etc).
  • I must agree with all of the above having worked a university,gov jobs and outsources It very much is use them up burn them out. Dont get me started on recruiters
  • My add to this is where are the key bodies that represent the IT industry in Australia? What is AIIA and ACS role in this? All I seem to here from AIIA is how they lobby government is around skilled migrant numbers. Which is short term and doesn't help where the key skill shortages are in the market.
  • While I agree with all the respondents, I also agree there is a PERCIEVED skill sortage in Oz.
    Damey summed it up: IT companies hire what they need NOW, not for the future. To them, all IT people of a particular grade or field, are the same. Just hire what you need, then when times get rough, skills become outdated etc, retrench and re-hire. Especially in today's troubled times when there will be a "pool" of unemployed to choose from (not to mention to drive down wages), when they need to rehire.
    Message to IT companies: You need to PAY for the skills you need.