Collective action is slowly but surely gaining ground in the race between IT industry and its most serious menace -- skills shortage.
In fact, recent efforts by the IT&T industry task force, formed with a view to increasing awareness about the problem and mobilising industry leaders for action, seem to be bearing fruits already, with two independent programs promising to deliver feasible solutions in the area of IT training.
Announced earlier this week, a new national IT&T training scheme -- to be led by the IT&T industry training advisory board (ITAB) -- and the Australian Technology Network-led university cooperation program are among the first concrete attempts to put the IT industry's money where its mouth is.
It is expected that ITAB, which is currently going through an endorsement process by the Australian National Training Authority (ANTA), will be officially formed within the next couple of months. The group will be created as on offshoot of the existing Melbourne-based InfoComP training body, which is currently in charge of training advisory programs for the printing, graphic art, postal and IT&T industries.
Leo van Neuren, InfoComP national executive officer, says the aim of the new body will be to "align training more closely with the IT&T industry's requirements".
"[ITAB] would essentially continue to develop training packages for the vocational education training (VAT) sector, delivering a new suite of training courses that would directly reflect the needs of the industry," van Neuren said.
The initiative is likely to go one step further by encouraging IT companies to employ trainees for up to 12 months or to train its existing employees under the VAT program, which is expected to introduce 16 new IT&T industry-approved qualifications to the national education scene.
In addition, the ITAB scheme involves plans for a new Federal Government-approved apprenticeship system that should be accredited soon after April and will provide an entry vehicle to the industry at a paraprofessional level, while at the same time providing subsidies and incentives to employers.
Van Neuren anticipates the program will induce a major take-up of trainees throughout the industry, and he says: "We expect to take the number of trainees to around 5000 and perhaps double that next year." However, the InfoComP official admits selling the program to employers will not be easy.
"It is hard to change employers' views about the way they recruit people and convincing them that this is the way to go will be one of the biggest marketing challenges of the program."
Meanwhile, five Australian universities have agreed to collaborate on the development of the industry-specific tertiary training programs, conceding the market-driven education needs to correspond more closely to the needs of the business community.
Sydney's University of Technology, Queensland University of Technology, RMIT, Curtin University of Technology and University of South Australia will work together on the development of course and online course materials for commercial and university-conducted IT studies.