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Providing for the future IT&T skill needs of Australia

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Senator the Hon Richard Alston Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts

The Hon Dr David Kemp MR Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs

The Hon Peter Reith MR Minister for Employment, Workplace Relations and Small Business

The Hon Philip Ruddock MR Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs


The Government today announces a package of measures to help Australia’s information technology and telecommunications (IT&T) industries overcome a shortage of skilled staff.

IT&T skills shortages are an issue of global concern. The demand for IT&T skills has risen strongly over the past decade and will continue to rise for the foreseeable future as Australians increase their participation in the information economy.

The climate of rapid change and emergent technologies has created a situation where the supply of both specialist and generalist IT&T skills needs to grow rapidly to meet constantly increasing demand.

Australia’s future prosperity in this new world requires a cooperative effort on the part of all levels of government, the private sector and the general community, to enable people to develop the appropriate skills if we are to capture potential gains in new markets, boost employment and small business activity and maximise innovation and creativity.

This package of measures sets out a range of initiatives to help alleviate skills shortages in Australia’s IT&T industry by: • Conducting research into future skill needs, industry recruitment and training and barriers to some groups (eg women) participating in IT&T courses and IT&T occupations;

• Raising awareness of IT&T career opportunities and training; • Improving information flows between the industry and education sector to enable a more effective education and training response to meet skill demands;

• Fine tuning immigration arrangements to enable employers to access workers with cutting edge skills in critical shortage.

Graduate numbers have grown strongly in recent years. For example, in higher education: • commencements in Computing Science and Information Systems grew by 112 per cent between 198.9 and 1998, while commencements in Electronic Engineering and Computer Engineering grew by 98 per cent in the same period; • completion fates also increased markedly, with completions for Computing Science and

Information Systems growing by 139 per cent between 1989 and 1996, and completions for Electronic Engineering and Computing Engineering growing by 112 per cent in the same period.

However, demand for persons with IT&T skills has also risen markedly, and industry is concerned that the supply of skilled persons may not be able to meet emerging needs.

Any skills shortage cannot be addressed solely by government. The IT&T industry has accepted the need to contribute by identifying necessary skills and impending shortages, and through providing appropriate work experience, job entry and training opportunities.

The Government commends the Industry IT&T Skills Task Force, initiated by Telstra, the AHA and the ΑΤΙΑ, for taking a firm leadership position on behalf of the industry in this area. The Government is committed to working closely with the Task Force to develop common solutions to what is a shared problem.

We will be also working closely with the States and Territories to coordinate our activities on these measures, to ensure that we are all moving in the same direction. Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers responsible for information technology will be discussing this matter at the next meeting of Online Council on May 21 in Brisbane.

The measures will be implemented progressively over the next 12 months. It is the Government’s intention that all the relevant parties work together to progressively monitor the skills shortage problem and where appropriate develop further responses to ensure that Australia’s future skills needs are met.

Further information on the IT&T Skills Shortage Package is available on the What’s New section of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts’ web site: www. dcita.

A summarised list of the individual measures in the package is attached.

Media Contact: Terry O’Connor, Senator Alston’s office 02 6277 7480 Samantha Herron, Dr Kemp’s office 02 6277 7460 Ian Hanke, Mr Keith’s office 03 9650 0177 Brad Robinson, Mr Ruddock’s office 02 6277 7860 __________________Website:_____www. rjchardalston. dcita. gov, au______

58/99 29 April 1999


Gaining a greater understanding of the problem

• Conduct surveys into skills in demand and future prospective shortages - Government and industry will work together to build on the results of the survey that the Industry IT&T Skills Task Force is conducting to obtain additional information and to monitor changes in skill requirements from the baseline data provided by the industry survey. Work may involve, for example, a short-term analysis of the skill sets required in occupations where there are skills shortages, and a longer-term study projecting IT&T skills demand/supply and possible shortages.

• Conduct a survey of education and training providers to determine unmet demand - The survey will obtain views from education and training providers on the nature and extent of IT&T skill shortages, the extent to which institutions work together with industry to meet skill needs, the extent of any unmet demand for education and training and any impediments to the education and training sector responding to skill demands. ■

• Conduct research into the barriers to women participating in IT&T courses - Research will be undertaken to identify barriers to increasing the low representation of women in IT&T education and training courses.

• Conduct research to identify barriers to people entering IT&T occupations - Research to identify possible barriers in hiring and employment practices to some groups (such as women and older workers in other industries) entering the IT&T industry, and also impediments to IT&T workers’ career advancement.

• Facilitate industry undertaking studies of both formal and on-the-job training opportunities provided by employers for people in IT&T occupations, including an audit of the quantity and content of short commercial bridging courses available.

Boosting awareness of IT&T careers and training

. * . .

• Develop an IT&T career web site - A web site will be created that provides a One stop shop' of information on IT&T careers, skill requirements and job opportunities and education and training courses.

• Increase IT&T career awareness by providing information products - Provide improved information products to students in schools, TAFEs, Universities and their key intermediaries such as parents, teachers, career advisers and to people in non-IT&T careers on the diverse range of IT&T career opportunities available.

• Promote IT&T role models to young people in education and training - Positive peer role models will be promoted to young people and to those people under represented in IT&T occupations (eg women). .

. .

• Trial innovative approaches to reach women, older workers and indigenous people - Innovative promotional approaches will be developed to attract people who tend to be under represented in IT&T occupations.

• Promote IT&T retraining opportunities for unemployed people - Retraining and job opportunities in IT&T occupations will be promoted to unemployed people and those who assist them such as labour market intermediaries (eg Job Network members).

Enhancements to education and training outputs

• Review of the Computer for Schools initiative - Review the Investing for Growth initiative that provided surplus Commonwealth Government computers and IT equipment to schools. The Review will involve a mapping exercise to obtain data on the number and spread of computers in schools through this initiative, and an investigation of other issues such as technical support.

• Support the implementation of the new National vocational education and training IT&T Training Packages (due to be released in May/June) that introduce 16 nationally recognised IT qualifications - Funding will be provided for underpinning resources to aid the delivery of training and assessment for training providers.

• Work to develop better links between industry and education and training sectors - Develop in consultation with the Industry IT&T Skills Task Force, arrangements to bring together key stakeholders in all education/training sectors with the IT&T industry and government to build better links between industry and the sectors, by establishing a central reference point for matching industry skill demands with supply.

• Support for an industry funded training and internship scheme - Support for an industry funded training "and internship scheme to assist with increased promotion of work experience by the industry to graduates and other new entrants, providing pathways to higher skills.

• Enhance structured work placement programs for students - Better coordination and coverage of IT&T structured work placement programs and accredited school-based training, industry sponsored visits and supported field trips to IT&T companies, with support targeted towards programs leading to a nationally recognised qualification such as Australian Qualification Framework (AQF) certificates in IT&T qualifications.

Immigration initiatives

• Promote the use of Labour Agreements - Promote the use of Labour Agreements to employers and industry associations as a means to help meet short-term skill shortages.

• Improved access for priority occupations - Ίη demand' IT&T occupations will be placed on the new Migration Occupations in Demand List (MODL) receiving additional points in the points- tested migration categories. The Australian Computer Society will assess individuals' skills against IT&T listed specialisations. This will enable: - Skilled workers with occupations on the list to receive streamlined assessment for employer-

sponsored permanent and temporary entry; and - Streamlined permanent residency arrangements for overseas students where their occupations are on the MODL and who, after having physically studied in Australia for at

least 12 months, have obtained their IT&T qualifications within the previous six months.

• Expand and liberalise access to the DIMA Skills Matching Database - From 1 July 1999, employers seeking to sponsor IT&T skilled staff will have access to an expanded database of potential employees. •

• Conduct an awareness campaign to employers in the IT&T industry of immigration arrangements - A range of information products aimed at industry will be developed, highlighting immigration arrangements and options for meeting skill shortages.