Young Australians seem to have lost their love affair with technology with the number of graduates with ICT qualifications steadily falling since early 2000s, says a new report by the Australian Computer Society and Deloitte Access Economics. Should the trend continue, the next six years could see a record demand for overseas ICT workers given the steady growth of the technology sector and business demand for ICT workers.
Australia’s ICT industry employs around 600,000 workers. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest employers of ICT workers in Australia is the department of immigration (DIBP) with an estimated 1,600 ICT employees. However, the report notes even the DIBP finds it difficult to get the ICT staff it needs stating, ‘there are still a number of gaps in relation to the technical skills required within the organisation’.
With the government absorbing large numbers of ICT workers and the Silicon Valley companies drawing the best local graduates, private enterprise have been left to rely on ICT workers from overseas to fill the gap for over a decade now. The ACS has noted that Australia is just not creating enough graduates to meet business demand, and it’s becoming a massive problem forcing companies to turn to overseas skilled workers to meet business needs. There could well be an acute shortage of workers in the next few years.
The reports states that consultations with the business community suggest that there are shortages in skills such as programming and coding, computer science theory and computational thinking with businesses relying on overseas workers for key technical capabilities such as software development and programming. The report notes that Visa grants for temporary skilled migration of ICT workers have historically accounted for around 10–15% of total 457 visa grants. In the 2013–14 financial year, almost 12,000 ICT workers were granted 457 visas, representing 12% of total visas granted. This year it is expected to increase with the occupational ceilings raised for several ICT related occupations. The report suggests that the reliance on overseas workers will have to continue unless there is a shift in the basic school curriculum and the attitude of the government and businesses in order to get Australian youth interested in the sector and workers continuously trained to perform the specialised and ever-changing demands and tasks. The report indicates that the current emphasis in the education system, policy settings and business practices are all insufficient to build the interest of youth in technology or equip local workers with the required skills.
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