New IT body for Australia

New industry body kicks off in AU

IT Pro Australia, a new IT industry society backed by global lobby group and non-profit IT trade association CompTIA, made its debut today promising to raise the quality of skills in and perceptions of the sector.

IT Pro, foreshadowed by ZDNet Australia in July, will be an "industry-supported, member-based body representing professionals within the Australian IT industry focussing on skills and career development", said CompTIA regional director Danika Bakalich.

Speaking at a forum in Sydney this morning, Bakalich said IT Pro had been developed over two years with strong input from a CompTIA vendor steering committee established in February 2003.

She launched a manifesto including a set of commitments including developing strong industry communities, attracting new candidates to the industry, supporting teachers in schools and creating a new IT generation -- which she describes as one that has no boundaries and that breaks stereotypes.

The local IT skills initiatives would bear a strong relationship to global IT skills standards, she said.

Senator Helen Coonan, the Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts -- who will officially launch IT Pro tonight -- has backed the initiative, which she hopes will help change the perception of the industry. -In coming years, Australia will need to deal with an ageing population and a smaller pool of young adults entering the workforce.

"It is particularly important that we work to attract women and young, Generation Y people into the profession," she said.

A joint government, industry and education ICT Skills Foresighting Working Group is due to brief Senator Coonan later in the year on how to improve ICT skills in Australia.

By establishing its own skills recognition program, IT Pro will move into competition with the Australian Computer Society (ACS), which is also bidding to head Australia's drive for ICT success. The ACS is traditionally the chief body for ICT skills accreditation in Australia.

Steve Vamos, Microsoft Australia managing director, told forum attendees it was essential to attract youth to the IT industry.

"[We need to] make them realise that the perception of this industry as as being a bunch of geeks, sitting on their own, hunched over a terminal desktop screen, is not what the IT industry is about.

"Increasingly this is about people who can connect the potential of technology to the needs of everyday people in all walks of life," he said, adding that he backed the CompTIA initiative to deal with what was an industry-wide concern.