Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, introduced the Skills Australia Bill 2008 to Parliament yesterday, with some observers already saying it will bolster the IT industry in fighting the skills crisis.
"This legislation is being brought in front of Parliament as a priority because we understand the urgent need to increase the supply of skilled workers," said Gillard, addressing the House of Representatives yesterday.
The bill will establish Skills Australia, a statutory advisory body set up to assist the government in directing its workplace training funds.
According to Gillard, the first task of the Skills Australia board will be to "analyse current and emerging skills needs in the Australian economy -- both in the broader economy and demands across industry sectors".
"The challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled staff has shot up on the radar," said Phillip Allen, research manager at analyst firm IDC Australia.
"I think that the government's initiative is well timed for the industry, as it has dominated discussions in our CIO round-tables, and with vendors," he said.
Allen told ZDNet.com.au today that the skills shortage has hit crisis point in IT and is being exacerbated on two fronts; difficulty in attracting members of Generation Y, and swathes of senior IT professionals on the verge of retirement.
His claims were reiterated by Jane Bianchini, chief operating officer of ICT recruitment firm Candle. She said, "we're backing on to baby boomers retiring with their mainframe skills and there aren't enough graduates coming through with new expertise, so we've got shortages right across the industry".
"Universities are struggling to fill IT related courses, something needs to be done," the analyst said. Adding that the skills issue has risen sharply on his companies "top priorities" survey of vendors, jumping from number 12 to number six, just behind "reducing costs".
As part of its Skilling Australia for the Future policy, the government plans to offer 450,000 new training places over the next four years across all vocational sectors. Gillard pledged yesterday to make the first 20,000 available by April this year.
"The new places will offer high-quality training opportunities which better suit the needs of our economy in the future," said the Deputy Prime Minister.
IDC's Allen claimed that the skills shortage was also contributing significantly to the growth in offshoring: "It's not always a money thing, in a lot of cases businesses just can't find the skills here".
"We've witnessed some companies offshoring pieces of development because they haven't been able to gain access to enough technical expertise required at home," said Candle's Bianchini.
"At the end of the day we just need more bodies in IT, whatever it takes, we need to get people attracted to the sector again," Allen concluded.