Technical Skills Shortage Felt In Government IT
THE ANNUAL ‘STATE OF THE SERVICE’ REPORT CONDUCTED BY THE AUSTRALIAN PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION (APSC) FOR THE PERIOD 2012-2013 REVEALED THE SHORTAGE OF IT WORKERS HAS WORSENED OVER THE PAST YEAR. IS THIS A CHALLENGE FACED BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR AS WELL OR IS THE PUBLIC SECTOR EXPERIENCING A TOUGHER TIME FILLING IN IT ROLES?
The report by the APSC showed an 11% increase to the 69% of public sector agencies surveyed experiencing challenges in finding appropriate IT staff with the right skill level. IT roles among the most difficult to fill include:
Business process analysis;
Development and programming; and
The difficulty in finding skilled IT workers is not a new problem in the public sector. The issue was first addressed in 2008 through the Gershon Report where a whole-of-government IT graduate program and annual awards programs were setup through its recommendations.
However, the government also faces an issue of their IT recruits wanting to leave their current position and move into the private sector. Approximately 20% of those surveyed cited that they planned to leave their positions in the next 12 months and 17% said they were thinking of leaving the public sector altogether.
With recommendations put in place, why are government IT workers looking to move into the private sector? “Government IT projects often use the traditional waterfall model. As this model does not account for changes in requirements, government IT projects often go over budget. For these IT developers, this can bring down the overall morale of the team,” explained Kareem Tawansi, CEO of software development provider, Solentive Software.
However, the shortage of skilled IT workers is also being experienced in the private sector. “No matter what role you’re looking to fill, it always takes effort to find a person with the right calibre to fit your organisation’s needs and just as important, culture. It is important that an organisation doesn’t ‘settle’ but continues the search for the right fit,” advised Tawansi.
Thousands of IT jobs are expected to be created over the coming years, however these roles will not be filled if the skills shortage continues. The Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency cited that more work needs to be done to encourage females to enter the industry and companies to hire new graduates.
“I have always been a big believer in hiring graduates and setting them on the path to becoming experts in their chosen fields. For organisations that can afford the time it takes to mentor new graduates, the effort can be rewarding,” commented Tawansi.
“Females in IT are increasingly being sought after due to the ‘soft skills’ such as communication, business analysis and project management that they are able to bring to an organisation. Such skills cannot be offshored. However, more needs to done to change school leavers’ perception of IT being a male-dominated and boring career choice,” concluded Tawansi.
To help bring more skilled workers into the industry, misperceptions of IT need to be dispelled in schools and students educated about the different career paths available in IT. Governments also need to encourage the creation of graduate programs within IT organisations to provide work experience for the next generation of IT experts.