It’s not news that Australia has struggled to build a reliable cache of IT specialists for several years. The implications of this lack of skilled domestic IT labour have been far-reaching. In 2011, only 37 per cent of IT graduates between the ages of 20 and 29 had jobs in the IT field, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The number of 457 or foreign worker visas — a program much contended by former Prime Minister Julia Gillard last year — has increased from 70,000 to 100,000 since the global financial crisis, according to an ABC Technology + Games article from October. What has contributed to this skills gap and how can Australia — and your organisation — work around it?
Schools and tools lacking
The most highly cited reasons for Australia’s dearth of domestic IT talent include a lack of technology education in schools and poor teacher training, which has led to an inability for new grads to find work in the IT field. While much ado was made about importing foreign workers to fill these gaps in 2013, the more pressing issue is that Australia will become disadvantaged economically if this domestic skills shortage continues.
The country is attempting to make inroads with a 22-point plan urged by the Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency in its ICT Workforce Study 2013. Amongst the efforts in the plan are:
- A semester-long IT pilot delivered online to high school students to boost their tech savvy
- Scholarships for teachers and pre-service teachers to pursue additional ICT qualifications
- A national apprenticeship model delivered by the government to ICT technicians and trade workers for enterprises, especially small and medium-sized businesses
- An ICT skills conversion pilot program administered by the Australian Computer Society for recent graduates from non-ICT disciplines, plus a one-year professional experience program for entry-level ICT professionals
- Online courses piloted by Innovation and Business Skills Australia to give mature workers retraining opportunities so they can re-enter the workforce
Augmenting your staff
Australian businesses today still have a number of options for filling IT skills gaps within their own organisations. Already noted is the 457 visa program to bring in skilled workers from other countries. A growing trend according to the ABC article involves hiring IT freelancers who can do work like application development online from home. You could also give current staff additional training to get them to a baseline skillset level.
There is also the option of augmenting your staff — either permanently or temporarily — with skilled IT staff that are sourced from an outside agency. This approach reduces the need for an often costly and time-consuming hiring process. It also reduces the cost and time to skill up current staff.
While this option is most often offered through traditional talent sourcing agencies, Datacom’s Professional Services team has its own arm that specifically works to identify skilled IT workers from either our internal network or our vast external talent pool. Workers are available for short-term or long-term contracts and will match not only your desired skillset, but your company culture as well.
Australia may have a way’s to go to fill its in-country IT skills shortage, but the strides currently being made will lay a solid foundation for the future. Until then, there are options for businesses looking to boost their capabilities so they can drive performance and competitive advantage.