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Education the way to meet IT demand

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 11:05

Guest post by AIM Education and Training CEO, Dan Musson

Many businesses aim to be an employer of choice. That’s an important goal for any organisation seeking to attract the best and brightest.

It’s even more important for those seeking employees to meet growing technology demands and when IT graduates are short on the ground. The IT shortage is a source of frustration for employers, particularly when they witness the stream of arts and law graduates emerging from the country’s universities without jobs necessarily to go to.

There is also an image problem that needs addressing for technology, if it is to become an industry of choice. The career choices available to graduates in the so-called STEM field, referring to the disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, have not been well promoted in Australia. Just as law degrees became the safe haven of the country’s best and brightest in the 1990s, there is an opening for STEM to take this mantle as technology continues to disrupt.

There is clearly a need for those in primary and secondary education to be exposed to greater levels of these disciplines, and to be thinkers around technology, not just users. This will increase interest in these fields as career options. Technology has already decreased entry-level jobs for those who do not pursue higher education: sales assistants, receptionists, book keepers, contact centre employees. The list is growing as we embrace convenience.

Youth unemployment, not solely because of technology, is frighteningly high. At 13.3 per cent it’s almost double what it was in 2008. And averages can be deceptive — in some parts of Queensland the rate has soared past 30 per cent. That is unacceptable. Businesses, industry and government all have a role to play in making sure that in the face of technological change, there remains a path for Australia’s workers of tomorrow.

Some young Australians are self-starters and will be curious enough to discover their future. But expecting all school leavers to find their own way is not realistic and doesn’t reflect how the world works. Providing signposts to young people together with awareness of options starts early — in school and in homes.

As well as raising awareness of the career opportunities in technology, as a country we must also embrace the idea of just-in-time training. Not all should or can take three to four years after school to study and there is a question over the effectiveness of that model. The country’s focus should be on encouraging and supporting timely and flexible skills training to meet the needs of employers and employees.