Lack of ICT skills holding Australia back: Ai Group

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Lack of ICT skills holding Australia back: Ai Group

Call for industry to work with schools, universities.

Australia’s largest companies are finding it harder to recruit staff with technology skills, but are doing little to help fix the problem, reveals a new report from the Australian Industry Group.

The group surveyed more than 500 businesses across various industries and found more than a quarter were finding it difficult to hire professionals and managers with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) skills, with the problem most keenly felt by big business and the mining sector.

“A quarter of the employers surveyed found a lack of applicants with STEM skills to be their greatest barrier to recruitment.

"Other key barriers included a lack of workplace experience and the content of qualifications not being relevant to business needs,” Ai Group chief Innes Willox said in a statement.

In the mining sector, 37.5 percent of businesses reported difficulties recruiting professionals with STEM skills. For manufacturing it was nearly 25 percent.

The report makes the case that the increasing adoption of technologies has resulted in a need for a higher level of skills across the workforce, which in many cases isn’t being met.

“The old‐fashioned manufacturing manager basically is gone. Now he needs to know how to...manipulate a database and do all that sort of thing that they never heard of 10 years ago,” said one survey participant.

Willox said the relative decline of STEM skills is holding back our national economy and causing real frustration for employers, made worse by the fact that young people in schools and universities are not acquiring the STEM skills needed for the future prosperity of the country.

“The enrolments and the number of graduates with STEM qualifications continue to decline. This is a major concern for industry,” Willox said.

The Ai Group is backing a proposal by Chief Scientist Ian Chubb to introduce semester-long work placements for new technology undergraduates.

The group asked employers what measures they adopted to promote STEM skills to the community, and a large number either did not respond or indicated “not applicable”.

Willox is calling for an industry-led working group to help develop partnerships between schools and industry and to boost industry participation in addressing the problem.

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