Vic govt releases $3m IT industry development plan

The Victorian government has released a new AU$3 million package to support the development of the IT industry in the state, with Victorian Minister for Technology, saying that IT education numbers remain weak compared to rising industry demand.

The Victorian government today released a AU$3 million plan to help plug the gap between IT industry worker demand in the state and its IT professionals supply shortfall.

According to the state government, the Victorian ICT Workforce Development Plan (PDF) is aimed at helping to overcome misconceptions and increase awareness of IT careers, optimise the contribution that IT can offer businesses, and improve the alignment between IT qualifications and business requirements.

For Gordon Rich-Phillips, the state's Minister for Technology and Assistant Treasurer, it is critical that Victorian businesses are able to find people with the appropriate technical capabilities to compete on a global stage, and the new plan is expected to enable a future supply of IT skills is built with local talent.

"Information and communication technology now plays a vital role in virtually all businesses and will continue to drive Victoria's economic growth, innovation and productivity," said Rich-Phillips, who spoke at the Victorian iAwards dinner held at Melbourne's RMIT University last night.

"Although we know ICT careers offer excellent financial incentives and opportunities, businesses often find it difficult to recruit workers with the required ICT skills," said Rich-Phillips. "With ICT roles approaching five percent of total employment in the state, we want to create a skills pipeline in Victoria which guarantees a strong supply of workers with training and qualifications attuned to the needs of business."

In the plan document, Rich-Phillips said that despite strong industry demand for IT professionals, enrollments in tertiary courses leading to IT careers remained weak, leaving employers facing recruiting challenges — a trend the government hopes to combat with the new plan.

"To ensure that Victoria is well-positioned to take advantage of the dynamic and evolving technology landscape, the Victorian government is taking action to ensure there are sufficient skilled ICT professionals to lead Victoria on the next wave of economic growth," he said.

In 2011, the Victorian government launched its ICT Skills Initiatives package, designed to help invigorate GFC-impacted economic growth by buoying a workforce of IT professionals from both tertiary institutions and non-educations pathways.

Now, the Victorian ICT Workforce Development Plan is designed to build on the momentum started by the 2011 package, along with the Victorian Government ICT Strategy, which was first released last year, and contains initiatives that apply to the IT workforce in both the government and private sectors.

The suite of actions in the new plan is intended to establish a stronger supply of IT skills by driving up interest in studying or working in the sector, building a deeper appreciation of IT applications in business, and defining a "more compelling" IT career path for workers of all ages.

The plan suggests that its objectives and actions can only be successfully implemented with active participation and collaboration from industry and education stakeholders, along with government — where possible — on a national scale.

According to the plan document, as of November 2013, around 156,000 people were employed in IT occupations within Victoria, accounting for around 28 percent of the Australian IT workforce, with the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency predicting that the relative proportion of IT roles in the country will reach around five percent of total employment by 2025 — from 4.3 percent in 2011.

However, the challenge, according to the government, is to ensure that businesses not only have enough skills, but are also able to employ people with the "right mix" of skills, with complementary skills such as project management or communications playing an increasingly important part in IT roles.

According to the plan, the government's actions will start at the school level, with a new focus on school initiatives designed to provide a "richer and more contemporary view" of IT work.

It also plans to showcase to businesses — particularly at the SME end of the market — the contribution that IT can offer, with the government set to target CEOs and senior management with tailored programs to build understanding and appreciation of the impact of IT in business.

Additionally, the plan outlines a move to improve the alignment between business and IT qualifications, with the government set to play a "unifying" role between the industry and education sectors, in a bid to address the need for courses to better respond to industry requirements by helping to create ways t bring IT employers closer to IT coursework and teaching.