10 March 2009

Australian IT skills shortages remain despite recession

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While IT professionals have been losing thousands of jobs in the industry because of the global recession, applications for IT jobs in Australia have increased by 20 per cent, reports The Australian.

Despite the growing unemployment numbers, huge numbers of people are emigrating to Australia while Senator Chris Evans keeps the migration quota at this year's levels of 133,500 skilled visas.

Peter McDonald, a leading demographer, has encouraged the Immigration Minister to keep its levels despite the rising unemployment problem, because skilled workers would be essential in supporting the economic growth that will be due after the recession has passed.  He also said as the ageing baby boomer population begin to retire, the only way to avoid a skills shortage is using a targeted and open immigration programme.

As of January 01 2009, Senator Evans revised the immigration programme so that it would be more targeted.  Those migrants with sponsorship from an employer, state/territory nomination or a skill listed on the Critical Skills List (CSL) would have priority in processing over all other applicants.

In the IT industry, skills such as SAP, PeopleSoft, Siebel, network security and Java have made it to the CSL. 

According to the Australian Computer Society, the first two months of this year saw a 20 per cent increase in the number of people applying for skills assessment in the technology department so that they could have their foreign qualifications recognised in Australia.

ACS chief executive Kim Denham said IT professionals were strongest in demand in "banking and commerce, the minerals processing and mining sectors, agriculture, primary, secondary and tertiary education, business, the environmental and energy sectors, manufacturing and media and entertainment".

Both Ms Denham and Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association's (ITCRA) chief executive Danika Bakalich echoed the same sentiments: that the skilled migration programme needs to be maintained so that Australia's IT industry can lure more skilled workers.

"We support the view that there is indeed a skills crisis in the ICT industry in Australia and believe that it does not make sense to put an end to a skilled migration program when there are occupational needs evident in the workplace," Ms Bakalich said.

A spokesperson from DIAC said they would be responding to requests from businesses to maintain a targeted skilled migration programme that focuses on bringing "medical and key IT professionals, engineers and construction trades."

The spokesperson also said not only is it likely that this year's quota of 133,500 skilled visas would not be met, next year's migration programme is likely to be reduced so that local Australian workers can have their jobs protected during the economic downturn.

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people with emigrating to Australia.

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