So far, Australia has been rectifying the shortfall in experienced IT workers by allowing people to come to Australia and work on what are known as ‘457’ visas. Last year, 9,300 IT professionals came into the country to fill the shortfall in skills, compared with half that number who graduated from Australian universities. But this reliance on imported labour is not a long-term solution to lifting Australia’s capacity and re-skilling our workforce.
Apparently it is the experience gap in IT that concerns employers. They want it all - work-ready employees with industry experience. That’s a big ask, but one that TAFE is well aware of.
Experience shows us that many of TAFE’s IT students start with a basic course, pick an IT speciality, and then gain employment while they continue studying at higher levels. This helps students gain that vital industry hands-on experience employers are looking for. It doesn’t matter what age bracket, gender or socio-economic background IT students come from, as long as they are genuinely keen on a career in IT.
TAFEnow is addressing the inexperience problem by offering entry level qualifications in IT at government-subsidised rates, and suggesting students progress to higher levels as they gain experience.
The TAFEnow-delievered ICA30111 Certficate III in Information, Digital Media and Technology has been divided into five streams, giving the IT student a chance to ground themselves in the core units before progressing to specialist streams in Applications, Multimedia, Network Administration, Support or Web Technologies. Specialist Certificate IV, Diploma and Advanced Diploma courses, are also available soon to build on these skills. See all the courses at http://tafenow.com.au/it-courses-MA
While the notion of a professional year (similar to accountants or lawyers) has been suggested for university IT graduates, my thoughts are that the more practical industry-integrated nature of TAFE courses will tend to negate this need, especially if graduates are given an expanding range of duties by their employers and gain lots of experience.
To solve the shortfall in IT qualified staff, the Australian Workplace Productivity Agency recommends boosting ICT skills and capabilities and lifting the level of digital literacy across the broader economy, including:
- Targeted promotions to motivate and excite people to take up ICT careers
- Greater investment in the professional development of ICT teachers
- Improvements to work-integrated learning programs
- Proposals for a graduate conversion program and a cross-disciplinary unit on digital literacy to increase the quantity of workers with ICT skills
- Approaches to boost the engagement of under-represented groups in the sector.
“The ICT sector is a key enabler of innovation and productivity, and its influence will be felt in every sector of the economy," AWPA CEO, Mr Robin Shreeve said, looking into Australia’s future.
“If Australia is to maximise the potential of the National Broadband Network and move confidently in the Asian century, we need to ensure that the possibilities of ICT careers are effectively communicated, and that more people are motivated to engage in ICT during their education and throughout their careers.”
*The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency (AWPA) is an independent statutory body which provides advice to Government on Australia’s current, emerging and future skills and workforce development needs. http://www.awpa.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
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