Australia is under-resourced within its Information Technology sector. There is currently an unprecedented growing need for IT skills within Australia and globally. This requirement isn’t going to slow down anytime soon, Australia needs 6.5 million additional IT workers by 2025. Additionally, it is anticipated the average worker will need to develop seven new digital skills in that time to keep up with technology progressions, according to research by Amazon.
Working in the Australian IT recruitment industry, I find there is insufficient pathways into this sector to enable adequate growth. Particularly considering the IT sector isn’t actively promoted, or as easily accessible from an educational standpoint as other countries.
This has been something thrown around a lot at national conferences and meetings for a while now. At some point we subconsciously digested this fact…. and accepted it, hence the growth in overseas outsourcing arrangements. I have recently connected the dots for myself through my own findings and conversations with IT Talent (contractors) I work with. I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic IT minds in my time as a recruitment consultant at Rubik3. It was here I was able to connect conversations, that slowly painted the picture for me. Australia has an IT education problem. There are barriers to entry as it is harder to access and more expensive to gain IT knowledge across the sector compared to other countries, a factor that will negatively impact the Australian IT sector.
Through my discussions with sought-after IT professionals, I always like to explore how they gained their in-demand skills and certifications. Many, I am surprised to find, had picked them up overseas in our neighbouring countries such as India and migrated with these skills already attached. “India is an IT powerhouse”, one contractor explains. “It is a very easy passage, almost like picking-up your license” if it was compared to an Australia process. This is a common theme in Bangalore, India; known as the “Silicon Valley of India” due to all the IT start-up companies originating from its streets.
Another stroke of the brush to my findings, is that the entry level IT roles in Australia are a bit of a joke. It perplexes me that such sought after skills are required, yet have no efficient system for training a new generation from the beginning – or those that are there, aren’t actively promoted. Don’t get me wrong, there are some companies in Australia that do create sufficient pathways to get into IT. Mainly the bigger companies have established recruitment processes and partnerships with tertiary education providers creating an appetite for more staff. However, there seems to be limited capability for early IT internships or apprenticeships to enhance skills in the industry; or promoting IT in earlier stages of education.
I have been in the IT recruitment field for 3 years now and still don’t have an answer for people who have just slogged 3-4 years for their IT certification and would like a job to show for it. On average I see that IT roles require 3-5 years’ experience as a prerequisite. For many in the IT industry, job applications are usually applied for by emailing your CV through to the generic enquiry email inbox of known IT firms and hoping for the best. Many, including family of mine, are forced to resort to work different industries until they can get that “foot in the door” years down the track; usually, when they have naturally been the IT go-to in another company.
I believe one solution could be for companies that overlap this capability, to invest in its people through simple exposure and short courses of a range of IT proficiencies. Even introductory courses can enable that staff member to apply new learnings into something tangible for the company. Through these miniscule exposure strategies, we may be surprised at the number of Australians that have a natural aptitude for IT. We are already doing it in small ways now, with many having to navigate Microsoft suite daily, connecting with clients via MS Teams or Zoom, updating data in their CRMS. Actively promoting tangible IT skills into people’s everyday working life could be a missing piece to the puzzle. For example, when a manager asks to see a report, instead of presenting in the usual Excel it is presented using Power Bi. If I had more exposure to IT, maybe I could come-up with more examples…. Maybe this piece has given you an idea of something you can implement in your workplace? Maybe you are an experienced IT professional and you have resonated with some of the challenges I have raised. What is your advice? Your 2 cents?