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There are fewer high level IT jobs advertised on jobs boards than at any time since GFC circa 2008, yet some self-interested parties still claim there is a skills shortage.  Oh heck, let’s name names – Clarius, there is no IT skills shortage in Australia and if there is one thing this government has got right is its stated intention to crack down on unnecessary IT 457 visas

.After numerous chats with HR executives specialising in the IT marketplace, one particularly highly placed person put it all in perspective for me.

“Nobody is developing anything in Australia anymore. They’re doing it in India instead because they think it’s cheaper,” she said.

With an attitude like that from our local enterprises, it’s not hard to understand why no young Australians want to study IT when they leave school these days.

Except, that it’s not cheaper to develop good software in India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Eastern Europe or any other place these days than it is to do it at home.

Take it from personal experience, in this online global market good PHP and Javascript developers cost pretty much the same anywhere in the world. If you think, you’re going to save a fortune by offshoring development to Bangalore, you’re living in a fool’s paradise.

Whatever costs you think you might be saving by outsourcing a job to an ostensibly cheap location, will be offset by the management and opportunity costs of not having a local developer on hand to do your bidding.

At this particular moment in history, we have reached the point where developed nations are starting to realise that an economy without a strong manufacturing sector is extremely vulnerable.

Germany, the only true economic power of the EU, has always understood this, which is why they still make the best cars in the world, as well as a lot of other great products on their home soil.

The US has finally started to realise this, which is one of the reasons they have done everything in their power to devalue their dollar. And it may be working – anecdotal evidence suggests that manufacturing is starting to come back in the US of A.

Now let’s get back to our wonderful land down under.

We have a lot of smart people in this country. When I did my computer science degree 30 years ago, there were so many brilliant developers in my course that I thought Australia was going to be a technology leader.

After finishing university, there was so  much local development going on that even a mediocre plodder like me was commanding top dollar. However, what I was getting paid was less than the cost of a mediocre plodder in an offshore location these days, when you factor in all the costs.

Getting back to 457 visas, if there is a skill that is in short supply in Australia, then the only acceptable 457 visa that should be granted is for a trainer to teach that skill to local IT professionals.

Anyone who is suggesting that Australia needs to import IT workers to fill key roles is admitting that we have ignored our duties as a first world country to properly educate our citizens.

I come from Victoria, which is still one of the key manufacturing states of Australia. Manufacturing will always be the basis of a strong economy. Software development is manufacturing pure and simple and it’s a capability that we simply cannot afford to lose.

So please, no more talk of skills shortages. What we need is talk of skills training.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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