Feds pledge national system to boost IT skills

The federal Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts (DCITA) will fund the creation of an open-access, national ICT skills tracking and monitoring system, based on the Victorian model, to help bolster ICT skills.

The move comes as ICT Minister Senator Helen Coonan today released the report from the ICT skills working group - Building Australian ICT Skills - which also outlines a number of recommendations.

The Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA), in conjunction with Multimedia Victoria, is collecting Web-based data about IT placements supplied by 32 of its members. The data is published for Victoria only but the federal system, based on the ITCRA model, will present any information collected on the Skills Australia Web site.

"I am pleased to announce that ITCRA has been successful in its application for funding under the Information Technology Online (ITOL) Program," Coonan said. "The National ICT Skills Monitoring Establishment Project will improve ITCRA's current data collection and dissemination processes."

The report recommends the formation of an industry leadership group to develop and facilitate improved ICT information and participation in ICT occupations and careers.

Coonan said there is an "urgent" need to address the negative perception of ICT careers in the community, which is turning many young people away from considering a career in the "dynamic" sector, and believes the report will make a significant contribution to understanding the changing needs of the ICT industry and the economy as a whole.

The ICT skills working group - chaired by Keith Besgrove, DCITA's information economy division chief general manager - identified in the report inadequate coverage and access to quality data on demand for skilled ICT occupations and noted apparent declines in industry investment in workforce retraining and upskilling as areas which threaten Australia's ICT skills development.

The report also cited "flow-on effects" within the ICT industry of intergenerational social and demographic factors, such as the ageing workforce, changing workplace attitudes, and negative perceptions of ICT careers due to a poor understanding in schools of the diversity of ICT opportunities as areas of concern. A lack of multi-jurisdictional cooperation in addressing ICT skills is also seen as a hindrance.

Other recommendations include better aggregation of ICT jobs and data on the skills market, additional research into staff retention and "upskilling", a national ICT awareness campaign to market the attractiveness of IT as a career, and action to review and enhance the teaching of ICT in schools.