“In the medium term, there definitely is still a skills shortage,” he said. “The market won’t stay like this forever – when things do turn around, we’ll be scrambling for people. Right now, there are more people available, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s not a long-term thing. With the pervasive way computing and technology is now invading our lives, more and more are going to be needed.”
Lewis pointed out university numbers for computer science enrolments had continued to decline since the dot-com crash. “If we don’t get the young people going into computing and technology jobs, because they don’t see it as an area of opportunity, we have to get the skills from somewhere,” he said.
Last week, ICT recruitment firm, Peoplebank, signed an On-Hire Labour Agreement with the Federal Government, giving it a streamlined process for hiring international contractors under the 457 visa program.
COO, Peter Acheson, said it expected to bring in 150-200 staff a year for specifi c projects to cover skill shortages in areas like SAP, .NET, J2EE and business analysis. However, he warned the industry would be plunged back into a dire skills shortage if the economy turns around.
“The truth is, given the increasing importance of IT as core to every business process there is, if the market picks up and if it were to pick up quickly, and I am not saying it will, we would be back in a skills-short market for IT people very quickly,” he said. Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) CEO,
Ian Birks, said it was important not to take a protectionist approach against importing overseas talent to help deal with Australia’s skill shortage. He also called for the Government to ensure ICT skills are given a high priority in the coming budget.
“I think the fundamental point is as soon as we start to come out of the global fi nancial crisis, the core issues… will come back to haunt us. The issue is so signifi cant in that it impacts the productivity dividends the nation is looking for from IT, which ultimately affect the economic performance of the nation,” he said.