Australian Computer Society president Edward Mandla, in a statement released during the bi-annual Governing Council meeting in Canberra today, called for new policies in the industry including greater action on the offshoring of ICT jobs.
"If there's a phrase that links the areas we've been focused on this year as a Society, it's 'next generation' thinking. As an industry, we've often been perceived as trend junkies -- pre-occupied by the latest technology fad or management trend. In the next five years thousands of jobs will be lost to overseas. As an industry and as a community, we can't afford to take these sorts of decisions lightly," Mandla said.
The ACS made their own guidelines to "help minimise unnecessary loss of Australian ICT jobs to offshoring." They called for the government to "develop guidelines for Commonwealth departments and agencies taking into account the ACS offshoring cost-benefit check-list" and to "publicly endorse their check-list as best-practice guidelines for major Australian companies."
Philip Argy, ACS national vice president, said the slump in the enrolment rate for ICT courses was caused by the lack of information given to the younger generation regarding the industry.
"The enrolment slump happened because the young generation are thinking there is no long term career in this area. More information should be given on the diversity and importance of the courses and to explain that there will always be a demand for this industry. People who have influence on the younger generation should help them objectively assess their options," Argy said.
The ACS is also asking the federal government to work with them "to improve and enhance access to existing schemes for re-skilling and re-training of displaced ICT employees and to provide an agency dedicated to marketing Australia's ICT capabilities."
"We're not asking for protectionism, just prudence. We're calling on the industry, the government and the Australian community to wake up and pay attention to this issue. We need to weigh up the real price of our decisions -- not just today, but in ten year's time," Mandla said.
Mandla is also asking the federal government to develop and implement a national standard for computer literacy within primary and secondary schools throughout Australia. They want computer skills to be recognised as the "fourth core competency area for students, in line with reading, writing and arithmetic."
"Similarly, in the area of education any child who leaves school without adequate computer skills by 2010 may be setting themselves up for a life of poverty. We are calling on the federal government to commission nationwide research on the current levels of ICT literacy. We need to identify where the disparities in skill standards and access to computer equipment lie amongst our primary and secondary school-children," he added.
"The starting point is really back in primary school. If computer literacy is part of the core competencies, the younger generation will have a balanced perspective of their careers and will seek ICT jobs more consciously," Argy said.
ACS is expecting to see the changes in primary and secondary schools in the year 2008 to 2010.