ACS unsurprised by skills shortage

The Australian Computer Society has expressed a lack of surprise over a new federal government survey revealing a rising shortage of key ICT skills in some areas.

The Australian Computer Society has expressed a lack of surprise over a new federal government survey revealing a rising shortage of key ICT skills in some areas.

ACS president Edward Mandla said he was not surprised by the survey result, saying that ICT has "skills shortage written all over it" caused by the drop of students interested in the industry.

"We've been through such a difficult patch in the industry and universities now have half the occupants as before. Predictions, however, are saying there will be a boom in 2008 and from today till 2008 is the ramp-up period," Mandla said.

The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) survey said the new supply for ICT occupations in New South Wales from university completions increased strongly in recent years before falling sharply in 2003. It said supply from net migration also peaked in 2001-02.

The NSW Labour Economics Office said that as a result of the recovery in demand and the stabilisation of supply, shortages were evident in an increasing number of specialised areas, including most areas of security, some application development specialisations such as .NET technologies, Lotus Notes and Progress and client server application specialisations such as SAP, Siebel and PeopleSoft.

University completions are projected to remain low over the next two years and supply from net immigration is "likely to increase only moderately" as the market recovers. Therefore, the report said, it is likely that skill shortages will gradually spread to a wider range of skill-sets as demand increases over the next 12 months.

In Victoria, the labour market for IT professionals picked up during 2004 from a low level in line with broader Australian trends. There are no current IT specialisation shortages in Victoria, although, the report said, employers may experience recruitment difficulties in some areas.

The Victorian labour market for ICT professionals is expected to remain in balance over the next 12 to 18 months, although some specialisation shortages may emerge.

The labour market rating in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory are mostly "in balance" with only minor recruitment difficulties.

In South Australia, the demand for ICT professionals has been falling over the past three years. Despite attracting a large number of applicants, a significant proportion of employers reported difficulties in filling their vacancies.

The report said employers found it difficult to attract suitable experienced local applicants, especially those with specialised skills. However, there is no difficulty in attracting university graduates.

In Western Australia, many employers have become more selective when recruiting as there are unemployed ICT professionals available in most specialisations and a large number of candidates who possess a wide range of experience and skills.

For most ICT specialisations, the labour market is balanced. However, both .Net technologies and Siebel are in shortage while a further 18 specialisations are experiencing some recruitment difficulties.

Mandla believes that the industry has always been one with a "skills mismatch" where employees end up doing the same thing over a long span of time and employers forgetting to re-skill their staff.

"We all have to be extremely conscious of re-skilling. It is fairly easy to re-skill someone. It's just a matter of understanding what the best skill is," he said.

Mandla announced that the ACS will be starting its national television campaign this Sunday as part of its efforts to attract students to take up ICT education. The ACS will also be airing their ads in Qantas flights in two weeks.

"The ACS will try to get normal Australians to understand what ICT professionals do. We want to erase the stereotypes associated with the industry, like the misconception that it is risky and unstable," he said.