Jobwatch: Vacancies are in the cloud, too

If you're in IT and do not help create applications or provision services in the cloud, then the future is looking bleak.
Written by Phil Dobbie, Contributor

It's no surprise that as on-site equipment is replaced by the cloud, technology jobs are being asked the leave the premises, too. What is alarming is the rapidity of the shift, and the question mark over Australia's part in it.

Figures released this month in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's (OECD) Internet Economy Outlook 2012 report show that the last decade has seen a fourfold increase in internet-related jobs and a doubling of software jobs, but little for those in telecoms or IT services. And, as you'd imagine, it's worse for those still trying to flog communications equipment.

Australia has been slower than many in adapting to this structural shift. The OECD report shows that between 1995 and 2008, IT's share of the total job market in Australia stayed at around 4.7 percent, whereas across the 27 OECD member nations, it rose from 5.4 percent to 5.7 percent. There are many countries ahead of us in the league table: in Finland, for example, the share has risen from 7.4 percent in 1995 to 9.4 percent in 2009.

This move to the cloud is part of the reason why we're seeing a month-by-month reduction in advertisements for older-style IT jobs. This is evident in the Internet Vacancy Index — a report compiled by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, measuring newly lodged jobs on Seek, MyCareer, CareerOne, and Australian JobSearch. Vacancies for IT managers, for example, fell to 421 in September 2012. That's 30 percent down on the same month last year, and the lowest month since December 2009. Back in September 2006, we saw four times as many jobs advertised for IT managers.

But we can't blame last month's poor figures entirely on structural change. Part of the problem is certainly the economy; companies spooked by the mining slow down are being careful about investing in new staff, and, across the board, there's been a sharp decline in vacancies since late 2008, without any substantial recovery. The last year has seen online job advertisements hit a new low.

Sadly, jobs for software and applications programmers are falling even faster than the rest, despite being the cornerstone of the new digital economy. There were 4,993 online vacancies in September 2012, less than half the total from five years ago.

We have the worst of both worlds: the cloud is reducing the need for localised support and providing global opportunities for application developers, but Australia hasn't risen to the challenge, meaning that more jobs will be heading overseas — off in the cloud somewhere.

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