Just a few months after he got the state's ICT industry offside, Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has announced a national summit to focus on skills challenges facing the ICT industry to be held there early next year.
Beattie said that the looming skills crisis was not only limited to the ICT sector; however, at the same time as demand for ICT skills has increased, young Australians enrolments in undergrad university ICT courses are dropping. Early in the year the premier's comments after extending a multinational's contract, that he "had to choose the best", resulted in an uproar in the local IT sector and saw the industry set up a special group to work with government.
Speaking at the Australian Computer Society's ICT Industry lunch in Brisbane last week, Beattie said even though university applications from year 12 students has increased by 1400 applications over last year, demand for ICT courses in 2006 fell by 12 percent on top of a massive 30 percent drop for the previous year.
"These are matters of concern to the industry, to the Queensland government, and, ultimately, to our society as a whole," Beattie said.
"We've got to encourage more young people into an industry, which, after all, is skilled, well paid and likely to continue to grow strongly. We've also got to develop a system of accreditation for workers in the industry who don't have a university degree and whose skills are therefore not recognized through any common benchmark.
"There is a strong element of self-interest on the government's part in addressing these issues; we could not function without the ICT and the sounder and stronger the industry is, the better."
Beattie said the Minister for Small Business, IT Policy and Multicultural Affairs, Chris Cummins, spearheaded the idea following the last four meetings with the Industry/Government ICT Working Group. The ICT Working Group was designed to address key issues affecting Queensland industry's business with government, and raise its proile for whole of government tenders.
Mark Lloyd, chairman of the Queensland branch of the Australian Computer Society, said there are some sobering home truths for the national ICT industry reflected in Beattie's speech. Lloyd said the identity tag that follows ICT professionals around is an issue that has to be corrected if the industry is to attract young workers. This initiative puts Queensland well ahead of the other Australian states.
"Australian federal and state governments are littered with good intentions, but poor outcomes and of all of the states Queensland is now in a box position as the state government is throwing everything at the issue," Lloyd said.
"We (ICT workers) need a brand name for schools, universities, government and industry to start promoting IT as an icon; we are promoting the name of technologists. At the moment, we are either nerds, geeks, propellerheads or IT professionals."