The Australian Information Industry Association has welcomed the Federal Government’s $6.5 million investment to target the IT skills shortfall but categorised it as "overdue".
The Digital Careers program, announced yesterday, will be rolled out by NICTA and will initially expand Queensland’s “Group X’ pilot which has boosted the number of school students choosing to study IT at university or TAFE by 60 percent over five years.
It comes as the sector struggles to attract talent, with enrolments in IT courses continuing to decline on a national level.
“We would like to try and replicate the success in Queensland on a national scale,” said Simon Kaplan, director of skills and industry transformation at NICTA.
Kaplan is hoping the industry will come to the party.
“For us in the IT industry this is absolutely bloody vital. If we’ve got young kids coming out starting their own companies, going to work in existing firms, we’re guaranteeing the future of an IT industry in Australia.
“If we don’t people have no choice but to outsource and go offshore, and we could look around in ten years time and just see ashes. We don’t want that, so we need people to get involved,” Kaplan told iTnews.
He said the Group X program was focused on breaking down some of the perception problems the sector faced, helping potential IT students to understand working in the sector wasn’t “Revenge of the Nerds meets some sort of terrible poverty story”.
“The reality of course is nothing like the perception at all … there are lots of jobs, they are generally quite well paid, they are interesting, there’s a ton of variety, there’s lots of opportunity to travel and so on.
“Now we’ve got a whole new generation of jobs coming out around data science and analytics. As long as the IT industry has been around it just keeps reinventing itself with new types of interesting jobs and there’s no reason to believe that that will stop.”
Kaplan said the Group X program was also focused on separating course provider brands from information on how to train in IT.
“University brands get in the way when you’re doing this because you’re trying to talk about a career, not about a particular institution where you can train.
"If you’ve got your university branding all over it, the message you’re sending is ‘please give me your HECS money’.”
Kaplan said flooding schools with lecturers talking about IT doesn't work.
“Put somebody from industry in that school and talk about what you can actually do in that career and now you’re having a completely different and much better conversation.”