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Monday, 18 April 2011 07:32

Banks and NBN mop up IT skills


Demand for IT staff edged back into skills shortage territory during the March quarter as big bank projects and the NBN slow burn mopped up any excess capacity.

The March quarter Clarius Skills Index put the skills index for computer professionals at 101.1 - just 0.1 outside of the balanced range. And while it's a notch up from the December quarter of 100.7, it's less than the September 2010 index of 101.4.

The fact is that the IT skills market has been bumping around being balanced for most of the last three years.  And while there's been some movement in salaries - there hasn't been much.

Candle is a specialist recruitment business within the Clarius network which places IT professionals into roles around the country. Candle executive general manager, Linda Trevor, told iTWire that the market had been pretty much balanced since she took on the role at the company a year ago.

What was concerning she said, was that if companies or Governments suddenly wanted to roll out new IT projects there was no slack in the skills market to fill new positions. Clarius estimates there is currently a shortfall of around 2,200 IT professionals.

It's enough to have the company again calling on the Government to relax the rules surrounding the skilled migration programme which would allow people on 457 Visas to be brought into the country.

The Clarius report also lamented the fact that; 'At the moment, recruitment companies are required to pay two per cent of recent payroll expenditure on training for Australian citizens and permanent residents which places an additional burden on hiring activities.'

But Ms Trevor acknowledged that there were local IT professionals who were out of work and unable to find positions. It was she said generally a case of their skills and experience not matching employer requirements.

What's in demand? read on

Ms Trevor said; 'I think it's ridiculous that we spend more money on hiring someone else than training' existing IT professionals who may not have the perfect skills mix being sought by employees. She said there was merit in employers looking to beef up their training and development budgets to make sure existing local professionals could compete with overseas imports.

However according to Clarius as soon as the NBN roll out starts in earnest the country will be forced to bring in overseas IT professionals with networking experience as there simply aren't the numbers of these specialist personal available in Australia.

Clarius pays KPMG Econotech to conduct the survey on its behalf, using Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations data. An index of 100 represents perfect skills-demand balance where figures above 101 are considered to indicate skills shortages.

Across all sectors of the economy Clarius noted that; 'National skills shortages are re-emerging after a small oversupply in the December quarter.' Although demand for workers across the board was rocked by the spate of national disasters earlier in the year Clarius claimed that there was pressure on the supply of IT employees partly as a result of the $4 billion of combined IT investment programmes being run by the big banks and the continued roll out of the National Broadband Network.

According to the report demand for IT professionals in the resources sector is on the move in Western Australia, while finance sector specialists are needed in Victoria although that state also experienced in a slow down in demand for senior roles paying $120,000 and above.

It also noted that; 'The ACT is experiencing an extreme backlog in Government security clearance applications, meaning many applicants are finding employment elsewhere.'

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