Skills shortage looms post Y2K

Skills shortage looms post Y2K

The quiet Y2K transition has given way to renewed concerns over the IT skills shortage, as most Australian companies begin redeploying their Y2K staff to new projects.

The channel, as with other industry sectors, is holding onto its Y2K staff and looking for additional resources.

Integrator Senteq is one company already `hunting' for new staff, according to general manager Chris Leach.

Leach said his Y2K staff would be `easily transferred' to a range of new projects including GST introduction, e-business initiatives and related security developments.

Integrator Volante's managing director, Wayne Morris, said it had carried out most of its Y2K projects with contractors, with the majority staying on to work on other projects.

Morris said the company hadn't had too many problems so far getting staff when it needed them, but he believed there is definitely a skills shortage in certain areas, citing high-end skills such as networking as an example. `It's just an ongoing issue,' Morris said.

Darron Lonstein, director of technical marketing at network integrator Com Tech, said it hadn't actually employed anyone specifically for Y2K. `We had employed people because of the growth in project work.'Lonstein said it was not looking at reducing its staff in any way. `If anything we're continuing to grow.' When asked by ARN if he thought there was a skills shortage, Lonstein said he thought the trend of a shortage of good skilled people in Australia would continue, because of the amount of activity taking place. He believes it is across the board, including areas such as networking and communications through to Internet development. `There is a shortage of good skilled people and it's an area I think a lot of work and training needs to go in to.'Meanwhile, reports continue to suggest the Y2K transition has remained extremely smooth for the Australian IT industry.

An ARN survey revealed that most companies experienced a very quiet weekend, despite having support staff on call 24 x 7 throughout the Y2K rollover period. Most calls came from consumers or small businesses rather than the enterprise sector.

`The Australia/New Zealand call centre experienced one of the quietest weekends ever,' an Oracle spokesperson said. `It's ironic, but it was even quieter than last New Year's Eve. All the problems were easily rectified, which underscores the fact that everyone was well prepared.'Oracle had received only a handful of Y2K-related calls since New Year's Eve, mostly from people who hadn't applied the solutions already provided by Oracle.

Both PeopleSoft and Computer Associates had staff on call but both companies claim they did not receive any Y2K-related calls at all.

`I put it down to the fact that we started preparing so early and thoroughly,' said Imogen Riley, PeopleSoft marketing communications manager.

Computer Associates' media relations manager, David Sanday, agreed, rejecting claims that the whole Y2K panic was a con.

`It was definitely not a con,' Sanday said. `The problem was real. We've been working on this since 1996, so - while some issues may have been exaggerated - the problem did exist.'Three callsSoftware giant Microsoft Australia received just three calls in the 12-hour rollover period, but this increased to 48 by the end of the first week. The majority were from consumers and small businesses.

`We did get a couple of calls on the night from larger corporations,' said Microsoft's Year 2000 manager Lance Smith. `They turned out to be date related but not Y2K related. They picked up on existing anomalies because they were working and closely monitoring their systems.'Most of the calls were for minor date problems that were easily fixed or requests for information, Smith said.

`There was a fair smattering of more-or-less hardware related issues when customers turned on their computers and noticed the date was incorrect,' Smith said. `The most common date was 1980 when PCs started to become available. You see that on older computers when the battery runs out, and basically the solution is to reset the date and think about upgrading the system. The other main type of call were requests for information on how to be compliant, which required directing them to the Web site and taking a couple of minutes to walk them through the issues.'

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