Tuesday, 16 June 2015 15:34

ICT jobs demand hits a high note, but skills shortages could derail the 'boom' Featured

ICT jobs demand hits a high note, but skills shortages could derail the 'boom' Image courtesy of jannoon068 freedigitalphotos.net/images

Australia’s I CT sector is on the verge of a mini jobs boom over the next six years, but the predicted demand for IT professionals is tempered by a continuing and worrying decline in the number of graduates with ICT qualifications.

A new joint report by the ACS and Deloitte Access Economics warns that despite the strong growth in demand, with a projected gap of more than 100,000 ICT workers in the next five years, and declining rates of ICT graduates, Australia is facing a “serious problem”.

The report – launched by Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the National Press Club - found that there has been 5% growth in the number of ICT professionals, with an increase to 600,000 ICT workers in 2014, and demand for a further 100,000 workers over the next six years - but despite the demand, the number of graduates with ICT qualifications has declined significantly since the early 2000s.

John O’Mahony, Deloitte Access Economics director said, “The contribution from ICT to Australia’s economy, and our successfully meeting our productivity challenges, are at risk if we don’t ensure there is an adequate workforce equipped with the necessary ICT skills.

“We urgently need to boost both awareness and opportunity around ICT skills development.”

“Despite the strong growth in demand, with a projected gap of more than 100,000 ICT workers in the next five years, and declining rates of ICT graduates, we are facing a serious problem.”

While the negative supply-demand situation is a significant concerns for Australia, on a positive note Deloitte says that Australia needs a workforce that is equipped with the ICT skills necessary to fuel its digitally-driven economic growth - and this creates an “enormous opportunity” for students considering a career in ICT.

According to the report, digital technologies is one of the fastest growing parts of Australia’s economy, with its economic contribution growing in the past three years to a 5.1% share of GDP – from $50 billion in 2011 to $79 billion in 2013-14.

The report also found, however, that, despite the influence of digital technologies on the next generation’s future career opportunities, Australian schools are well behind in the use of digital technologies within an education setting. Currently only 3% of Year 6 students frequently use ICT in schools for technical tasks.

ACS CEO Andrew Johnson says an ICT career represents an “outstanding job opportunity for graduates in the coming decade – students, parents and careers advisors should pay attention to this fact”.

“We need to look beyond stereotypes and see the future ICT professional with new eyes, with digital disruption creating jobs requiring ICT skills within a diverse range of sectors and professions. The data shows there is huge versatility in ICT.”

To address the issues raised in the report,the ACS and Deloitte Access Economics recommend:

•       An increased national focus on growing Australia’s ICT capabilities and skills in the workforce

•       Federal and State governments accelerating the development and implementation of the Technologies component in the Australian Curriculum, with a particular focus on computing skills and training of teachers

•       Higher education institutions promote the strength and diversity of ICT related study and career paths to students

•       Businesses provide opportunities for employees to develop their ICT skills through on the job training, workshops, upskilling courses and other business development initiatives.

As the report finds, productivity growth in the Australian economy will be increasingly driven by digital technology in the future, particularly as the mining boom wanes.

According to Deloitte, the rapidly growing digital economy means that ICT skills will play an increasingly important role in future economic growth, and Australia needs to ensure that its education system, policy settings and business practices are all working towards equipping the country’s workers with the required technological skills.

“This will ensure that the Australian workforce is well-placed to meet the future challenges associated with digital disruption,” Deloitte says.

And, the solution to the needs of the digital economy, and to address the major projected skills gap, according to Deloitte and the ACS, is a multifaceted solution with government, businesses and education institutions and industry associations all playing a role.

Brenda Aynsley, ACS President issues a challenge to the industry, government, the education system and all key stakeholders: “It is high time that we have a stronger focus on Digital Technologies, particularly computational thinking and coding, in schools right from a foundation level, in order to prepare our next generation workforce for the future. Otherwise we are at high risk of falling behind the rest of the world in an increasingly globally connected economy.”

Other key findings of the Deloitte/ACS report are:

•    Employment in the ICT sector is expected to grow by 2.5% per year over the next six years to 2020. Compared to employment for the economy as a whole, which is forecast to grow by 1.6%

•    The gender pay gap in ICT stands at 20%, significantly lower than the workforce average of 34%

•    47% of all workers who studied ICT are now in other professions, such as advertising, marketing or accounting

•    43% of workers in ICT occupations studied courses other than ICT or engineering, such as commerce and management degrees

•    52% of ICT workers are in industries outside ICT itself including professional services, public administration and financial services

•    The highest growth rate in demand for ICT qualifications is forecast for postgraduates, with demand forecast to grow at 4.2% annually over the six years to 2020.

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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