Skills shortage set to restrict Australia's ICT growth

Skills shortage set to restrict Australia's ICT growth

The skills shortage will be the main restriction to Australia's ICT (Information and Communications Technology) growth in the long term, according to the latest ICT salary report from Ambition.

While salary increases in the IT sector were the talking point 12 months ago, wage levels have been kept in check by employers wary of creating unsustainable increases as a result of the skills shortage.

Despite this, the ongoing war for talent is deepening with the Australian economy producing two million extra jobs in the last decade.

With the economy growing at an average of 3.5 percent and business investment at an annual average rate of 8.4 percent (currently at its highest level for 32 years), there is little reason to believe the skills shortage issue will be resolved anytime soon.

In the banking and finance sector opportunities for candidates in the A$100,000 (US$88,710) to A$200,000 continues to grow. Demand for business analysts with banking product knowledge or candidates with niche skills in equity trading are experiencing salary increases upward of 15 percent.

Java remains the dominant technology within investment banks and projects utilizing J2EE and C++ for trade flow systems design continuing to grow.

Product knowledge around the futures and options trading systems is also driving substantial wage growth. The latest financial services salary table from Ambition shows program managers earning as much as A$150,000 per annum with enterprise architects in the A$140,000 range.

IT managers in this vertical are earning between A$80,000 and A$100,000 while project manager salaries range from A$80,000 to A$110,000.

Ambition recruitment research has seen significant demand for document management projects focusing on data management and retrieval with companies urged to employ professionals with business intelligence and data warehousing skills to create these complex databases.

While Ambition identifies plenty of IT activity in the federal government with large scale projects being undertaken by Centerlink, Customs and the Australian Tax Office, the NSW government's People First program is also generating plenty of labor market movement.

The latest report from research firm Intermedium shows the federal government will spend A$3.36 billion on ICT contracts this year.

According to the Ambition report there is currently a high degree of activity in the vendor market which is being driven by consolidation. Storage has been a strong growth area while security skills are at an absolute premium.

The government sector remains buoyant with demand for infrastructure, IT security and storage specialists. The flow of candidates to and from Australia continues to play a key role in the overall supply levels in the Australian recruitment market.

Ambition sees plenty of candidates in the A$50K to A$80K space arriving from England, Ireland and Scotland for periods of two to four years providing a valuable resource for the contracting market.

The latest Ambition report also found changes to the 457 visa legislation, which is designed to tighten the intake of temporary skilled migrants, is exacerbating the current skills shortage. Labor hire firms must now use a labor agreement to sponsor these workers, adding another level of administration to the hiring process.

There is also a push to have the 417 (working holiday) visas increased from the current 12 month duration to a minimum of two years.

From 2002-2005 IT university enrolments declined 18 percent. Undergraduate enrolments fell 23.6 percent while overall enrolment, including postgraduate, dropped 18.5 percent. In the past year it fell a further 18 percent.

In a period when Australia's universities produced 12.3 percent more graduates, IT completions fell by 4.1 percent.

Newly elected Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has been quick to blame "chronic under-investment in education by the Coalition over the last decade" as a contributor to the current skills shortage, sparking his plans for an education revolution as the solution.

Rudd described Australia's overall investment in education over the last decade as lackluster.

"While other nations have substantially increased their investment in human capital in recent years, Australia has followed a different path," he said.

"Australia's overall investment in education is 5.8 per cent of GDP - behind 17 other leading economies, including the United States, Poland, Hungary, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

"We now rely more on private financing for tertiary education than all but three other OECD countries. Australia can do better."

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