Australia's first National ICT careers week announced

ICT the chief driver behind Australia’s productivity, needs more foot soldiers.

Convincing young people that a career in ICT offers a global passport and the chance to make a difference in some of humankind's foremost dilemmas, such as climate change, are among the key themes of the inaugural National ICT Careers Week, slated for 28 July to 2 August 2008.

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) and the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) this week formally announced the event; an initiative of the ICT Industry Leadership Group consisting of representatives from the ICT industry, Federal and State governments, education institutions, industry and professional organisations.

"It was pretty clear that over the past 10 years Australia's productivity, despite everyone thinking it came out of mining, actually came out of ICT

AIIA NSW executive officer and national workforce policy manager, Michel Hedley, said that a report released by the previous federal government's Department for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts identified ICT as the chief driver behind Australia's productivity.

"It was pretty clear that over the past 10 years Australia's productivity, despite everyone thinking it came out of mining, actually came out of ICT," Hedley said.

"The Federal government and other state governments woke up to the fact that ICT is vital to their state's and the country's future. They commissioned reports that we participated in, and one of the things that came out of it was that we realised that the positive things about ICT have to be promoted to young people."

According to the Department of Education, Science and Training, student demand for IT courses has decreased by 66 percent over the 2001-2007 period.

Hedley said that over 70 companies, organisations, professional groups, educational and government institutions had already signaled their intentions to participate in the careers week, despite the fact that the official marketing campaign for the initiative has only just begun.

The AIIA and ACS won't dictate a program of events for the careers week, instead it will be up to participants interested in encouraging young people into IT to come up with an event, or rebadge an existing initiative under the National ICT Careers Week Start Here Go Anywhere brand.

"There's things like the Victorian Information Technology Teachers Association that are having kids come in to get an idea of what ICT is about. The Northern Sydney TAFE is talking about having a competition with young kids interested in digital media, the Queensland government has a number of functions on, and careers advisors are talking about having a special ICT week in their schools.

"Various state ministers of education are going to be making positive statements, and we've got the ICT industry and a number of banks wanting to participate too. So without too much effort we've [already] got a lot of interest," Hedley said.

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Other participants have signaled they will be demonstrating leading edge technologies in security, space, medical robotics, artificial intelligence, animation, entertainment and fashion, in a bid to open young people's eyes to the wide range of career possibilities ICT can offer.

The career portal on the ACS Web site will also be re-branded with the Start Here Go Anywhere logo, and will serve as a resource for participants. TAFEs and universities are also being asked to complement their Web sites with information on the careers week.

Making young people realise that a career in ICT can be, but is not exclusively, mathematics and science based, is a key aim of the initiative.

I make the assertion that ICT is probably going to be the industry that solves it [Global Warming]

"Take something like fashion; ICT just in fashion goes from design work on computers, laser cutting and stitching on computers, right down to the catwalks that are all computer driven. The thing about ICT is it's in all walks of life, across everything," Hedley said.

"But we're interested in the bigger issues as well. There is a lot that ICT can offer to the global warming problem; new techniques coming out with energy management, emissions monitoring, the carbon trading system is basically run on computing. I make the assertion that ICT is probably going to be the industry that solves it," he said.

ICT's above average financial rewards are also expected to be a draw card for young school leavers.

"Working in ICT pays well: new ICT graduates can expect to earn up to $62,000 a year as a starting salary. ICT provides rewarding and dynamic career opportunities and advancement in many of Australia's economic, community and social aspirations into the future," said Penny Coulter, chair of the Careers Week steering committee.

In a statement released today, new AIIA CEO Ian Birks echoed Hedley's belief that a career in ICT can open many doors.

"National ICT Careers Week is about getting young people, their parents and their teachers excited about what ICT study and work has to offer. Many people would be surprised at where an ICT qualification can take them - it is like a passport to the world," Birks said.

As of 30 June 2005, there were 274,132 people employed in Australia's ICT industries. $50 million worth of ICT jobs are expected to be created over the next 12 to 18 months, translating into 10,000 new ICT jobs available each year.