The Queensland government signaled its intentions to put an endto a deepening skills shortage with its hosting last week of theNational ICT (Information and Communications Technology) SkillsSummit in Brisbane.
The summit was used to announce a number of new state andfederal initiatives, largely centered on encouraging more people topursue a career in IT.
The federal Department of Communications, Information Technologyand the Arts (DCITA) announced it will fund the creation of anopen-access national ICT skills tracking and monitoring systembased on the Victorian model to help bolster ICT skills.
The system will be based on the one developed by the InformationTechnology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA) andMultimedia Victoria, a Web-based data collection of IT placements.It will present any information collected on the Skills AustraliaWeb site.
“I am pleased to announce that ITCRA has been successful in itsapplication for funding under the Information Technology Online(ITOL) Program,” IT Minister Senator Coonan said. “The National ICTSkills Monitoring Establishment Project will improve ITCRA’scurrent data collection and dissemination processes.”
The announcement followed Coonan’s release of the ICT skillsworking group’s report – Building Australian ICT Skills – whichoutlines a number of recommendations in addition to the nationalmonitoring system.The report recommends the formation of anindustry leadership group to develop and facilitate improved ICTinformation and participation in ICT occupations and careers.
Coonan said there is an “urgent” need to address the negativeperception of ICT careers in the community, which is turning manyyoung people away from considering a career in the “dynamic”sector, and believes the report will make a significantcontribution to understanding the changing needs of the ICTindustry and the economy as a whole.
The report also cited “flow-on effects” within the ICT industryof intergenerational social and demographic factors, such as theaging workforce, changing workplace attitudes, and negativeperceptions of ICT careers due to a poor understanding in schoolsof the diversity of ICT opportunities as areas of concern.
A lack of multi-jurisdictional cooperation in addressing ICTskills is also seen as a hindrance.
Other recommendations include better aggregation of ICT jobs anddata on the skills market, additional research into staff retentionand “upskilling,” a national ICT awareness campaign to market theattractiveness of IT as a career, and action to review and enhancethe teaching of ICT in schools.
During his keynote address at the summit, Queensland’s IT policyminister Chris Cummins announced a A$250,000 (US$183,641) programto encourage an injection of talent into the state’s ICTindustry.
The funding will go towards ICT career promotional programsthrough the new ICT Career Start program.
The ICT Career Start program is part of the Queenslandgovernment’s billion-dollar skills plan to reform the state’svocational education and training sector, which includes 23 newskills formation strategies recently announced by Minister forEmployment, Training, Sport, and Industrial Relations TomBarton.
Cummins also announced the state’s Department of Employment andTraining will provide an additional A$240,000 to fund a QueenslandICT skills formation strategy.
“Research conducted in the lead up to the summit found thatstudents and parents had little understanding of exactly what ICTcareers had to offer,” Cummins said, adding there is a perceptionthat ICT jobs we’re boring or had poor working environments. “Thenew ICT Career Start Program will help turn these perceptionsaround. It’s about providing funding for organizations, such as ourlocal industry associations, to undertake ICT career promotionactivities.”
The program will offer between A$10,000 and A$25,000 fundingthrough a competitive process to Queensland-based organizations forconducting activities designed to stimulate interest in ICT careersand engage skilled workers.
Cummins said increased expenditure on ICT projects is resultingin a demand for specific skills, yet there has been a dramaticdecline in ICT related course enrolments at universities – 38percent over the past two years in Queensland alone.
While these initiatives are for Queensland businesses only,Cummins acknowledged the skills shortage as a national issue andsaid the summit should help develop national solutions.
Key outcomes of the ICT Skills Summit
Queensland government to spend A$500,000 over two years toimprove the image of IT as a career option.
The ICT Career Start Program will offer between A$10,000 andA$25,000 funding to Queensland-based organizations for activitiesthat stimulate interest in ICT careers.
DCITA releases a report “Building Australian ICT Skills”outlining a number of recommendations to foster skills development.The report is online at available at www.dcita.gov.au/building_ICT_skills
DCITA will also fund the creation of an open-access national ICTskills tracking and monitoring system based on the Victorian modelto help bolster skills.