Govt agencies fight skills shortage

Mentoring, apprenticeships to fight skills shortage
Written by Steven Deare, Contributor

A clarification was made to this story. Read below for details.

Australian government CIO Ann Steward and Centrelink CIO John Wadeson are leading Canberra's fight to attract and retain IT workers in the midst of the current skills shortage.

Both are mentoring two specially chosen government employees as part of the latest initiative by the government's ICT skills and professional development taskforce.

The taskforce formed 12 months ago with the aim of developing new recruitment and retention tactics to combat the looming shortfall in IT talent.

The taskforce is piloting the government's involvement with the women in IT executive mentoring program, a human resources scheme initiated by Dell.

"Attracting more women into IT is our first priority," taskforce chair Patrick Callioni said.

Contrary to what some believe, the industry was not yet suffering a skills crisis, said Callioni.

"We have issues, but we don't have a crisis," he said.

"However, if we don't do something we will have a skills crisis in both the public and private sector.

"We're not going to keep people by using the strategies we have for the last 20 years."

He identified skills in IT security, project management, contract management and business analysts as those most needed by government.

The women in IT executive mentoring program was one way of making sure workers with much-needed skills were retained by government.

"The mentoring program is about creating the leaders of the future, where those who have the potential to lead are identified early," he said.

Steward is mentoring a colleague at Centrelink, while Wadeson mentors an employee of the Department of Education, Science and Training.

Both the mentored staff were female IT workers at the mid-management level and were selected by their own agencies, according to Callioni.

The mentoring program focused on developing "softer skills" in IT workers, said Callioni, as opposed to technical ones that could be learned on the job.

"We're talking about career management, networking with people and project management.

"What often happens in IT shops is it's harder to find someone with the softer skills," he said.

The taskforce will pilot the program for 12 months, before deciding whether to expand it across government.

Callioni said mentoring may also be a component of new government IT apprenticeships.

The taskforce put the development of the new apprenticeships program out to tender last month.

Callioni said the taskforce would advertise for apprentices, of which 50 would be chosen. These might not be university graduates, he said, but could be school-leavers or people from other backgrounds.

The apprenticeships will be open to anyone in Australia.

Based in Canberra, the two year program will run from February and include a combination of work at a government agency as well as study.

On completion of an apprenticeship, an apprentice would receive certificates in IT and public administration, as well as the opportunity to work in government permanently, according to Callioni.


Clarification: The story has been updated to clarify that Ann Steward is mentoring a colleague at Centrelink and John Wadeson mentors a Department of Education, Science and Training employee.
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