The ICT skills shortage in Australia is expected to worsen as fewer students enroll in computer technology courses and just barely half complete their ICT courses.
A study by the Australian Computer Society (ACS) released on Tuesday warned of the decline of number of local students who finished their ICT courses to just 4,547 in 2012 from 9,093 in 2003. Those who finished their course made up only 54.6 per cent of those who enrolled.
One bright spot is that international students who took up ICT courses jumped 85.8 per cent to 10,505 expected to graduate in 2012. However, not all would remain in Australia to apply their new skills as some would return to their mother countries.
The ICT expert shortage was observed as far back as four years ago, according to the YouTube interview with Sheryle Moon, the chief executive officer of the Australian Information Industry Association.
To fill in the gap, Australia had to rely on the issuance of 457 visas to bring in ICT experts from overseas through temporary migration for a maximum of four years.
Of the 47,980 457 visa applications that Australia received from July 2011 to May 2012, 10 per cent were from ICT workers. Currently, there are 8,800 ICY and media industry holders of 457 visas employed in Australia.
Leon Sterling, president of the Australian Council of Deans for ICT, said the declining interest in an ICT course is very disappointing due partly to the perception that information technology work is focused just on programming.
ACS CEO Alan Patterson pointed out that ICT now rivals mining in contributing to the Australian economy and stressed that unlike resources, technology and innovation are infinite resources with boundless potential for development.
However, it is not just the number of ICT students that needs to be boosted but also IT spending. Technology analyst Gartner, which issued its IT spending forecast for 2013 at its Gold Coast conference Tuesday, estimated a 3.2 per cent growth of IT spending in Australia to reach $75 billion. The figure is lower than the global growth rate of 3.7 per cent but significantly higher that Europe's IT spending growth rate of 1.4 per cent.
The ACS projected that 12,300 new ICT jobs are expected to be available until February 2013, while more similar jobs are expected to be created until 2015 unless a minimum two-year recession hits Australia.