Industry bigwigs talk up IT careers

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Industry bigwigs talk up IT careers

Westpac, Coca-Cola CIOs call for more skilled workers.

Australian chief information officers have highlighted a recent spate of multi-million dollar IT projects in a bid to attract more young workers to technology careers.

Addressing the ACS’ Young IT conference this week, Westpac CIO Clive Whincup pointed to the bank’s five-year, $2 billion SIPs program, which included three-year, $200 million IT projects.

At their peak, each of those IT projects called for “high hundreds” of staff, he said. Westpac reported hiring 1254 technology workers between March 2010 and 2011 to provide IT support and work on the SIPs program.

“When you talk about a five-year project [worth] $2 billion, that translates into a heck of a lot of people,” Whincup said. “There just aren’t enough people in Australia to meet that demand.

“Just like Westpac, other major organisations have similar programs of investment. Going forward, we don’t really see any clear end to the need for that kind of investment.”

Barry Simpson, CIO of Coca-Cola Amatil, said it, too, engaged in large-scale IT programs, including a $65 million OAisys SAP platform rollout that reached all its Australia and New Zealand locations this year.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s technology projects spanned enterprise resource planning systems, robotics, digital marketing and developing self-service applications for customers.

It had about 400 technology employees, including 250 in Australia, and outsourcing deals with Telstra, IBM, Accenture and TCS.

“We do believe we’re better off being a soft drink company than a software company,” Simpson told iTnews.

“We work with a number of larger companies and also with a collection of smaller web developers … Our production data centres, and help desk functions, those kinds of things, we outsource.

“But in terms of steering our core systems development and platform, we do that internally.”

Whincup reiterated comments from a CEDA conference in May, where he said Australian firms were forced to tap into global supply chains due to a shortage of skilled IT workers on shore.

Westpac has cut more than a hundred technology jobs in the past year through outsourcing agreements with Infosys, TCS, IBM and Wipro.

Whincup told this week’s conference that organisations tended to offshore technology jobs because of a local skills shortage, rather than because labour was cheaper overseas.

“In India, salaries are growing much more quickly than in Australia; at some point, they will reach parity,” he said.

“Over the last ten years, the number of enrolments in technology-related university courses has actually halved, while the demand for work has more than doubled.

“Looking forward, we’re staring into a significant skills shortage and that has already manifested itself in the marketplace.”

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