ICT jobs: are they out there?

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A new survey has found that fulltime employment in Australia’s information and communications technology (ICT) sector had grown, while unemployment remained ‘unacceptably high’.

A survey released today found that fulltime employment in Australia's information and communications technology (ICT) sector had grown, while unemployment remained 'unacceptably high'.

The Australian Computer Society (ACA), a professional body made up of ICT professionals, today released findings from its Information and Communications Technology Employment Survey 2003. The survey found that fulltime employment had grown four percent and that unemployment fell 1.8 percent -- from 12.2 percent to 10.6 percent. 

Edward Mandla, president at the ACS, said that although unemployment was falling at more than twice the rate of the overall labour market, it was still "unacceptably high" compared to the national average of 5.7 percent.

"There are some promising trends illustrated in this report, which support our belief that the ICT sector as a whole will continue to experience better than national rates of employment growth in the coming twelve months," said Mandla.

However, the survey indicated that average unemployment had increased 4.7 percent to 12.1 percent in respondents under 25.

According to Prof Paul Compton, from the UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering, this figure should not concern strongly performing graduates.

"It applies more to the lower end of graduates," Compton said, adding "we need a finer analysis of what specific jobs are being affected".

The survey also indicated a significant fall in unemployment for female respondents, from 12.3 to 6.3 percent.

Erin Wood, national women's coordinator for APESMA, associated this with the general fall in unemployment in the ICT sector. "More women are employed in less senior roles," she said. APESMA is a non-profit organisation representing professional employees such as scientists, engineers, managers and IT professionals.

In the survey, more than 80 percent of respondents expressed significant dissatisfaction with recruitment agencies. Mandla argued that this was "deeply concerning". The respondents reported that word of mouth and the internet were more effective as a means of finding work.

He also commented that off-shoring and an increasing ICT deficit worked against employment opportunities in the sector and that "open source software and increased government/large corporate spending on projects work for it".

"ICT has always been a tough career to crack. The industry works on short cycles and often prefers to raid experienced employees from another organisation than train their own," Mandla said. "Every IT graduate has to be patient and work hard to get their first break. Therefore they should try and get whatever relevant experience they can."

The 2003 survey results were drawn from a sample share of roughly 4.8 percent of the ACS membership, numbering around 15,000.

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