Chronic skill shortages are threatening to impede the growth of the Australian IT&T industry, with analysts predicting the problem could reach catastrophic proportions within the next few years.
In an attempt to avert the looming crisis, the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and the Australian Telecommunications Industry Association (ATIA) conducted a forum last week that attracted representatives from 50 organisations.
"It is ironic that at a time of high unemployment in Australia, we are facing a shortage of people in well-paid, interesting and fulfilling work," said Garry Moriarty, the convenor of the task force forum and Telstra's group managing director for network, technology and multimedia.
Warning that Australia might experience "a shortage of up to 200,000 skilled IT&T staff over the next several years", Moriarty conceded the industry needs to act urgently.
However, if this strategy is to bear fruit, the AIIA/ATIA/Telstra task force will also need to mobilise the private sector, which, while proving vocal in calling for action, has not been overzealous in taking concrete steps to help resolve the issue.
"It is not a problem that can be solved just by spending money and this is why we look to the government to create the infrastructure of learning and development," explained Daryll Goodall, general manager of Melbourne-based developer Tusc.
"However, what we can do is to look wider afield at the skills we bring on board. There are a lot of computer-literate graduates in fields other than computing who can be brought in and trained to work with us," he said.
But, according to Adrian Di Marco, managing director at Brisbane-based Technology One, while industry people are aware of the fact that the problem will not "fix itself", many are blaming their lack of action on the fact that their businesses have to keep moving.