ICT jobs wait for bounce

THE Federal Government’s decision to cut information and communications technology jobs from its Migrations Occupations in Demand List is a reflection of the sector’s subdued employment sentiment, according to industry insiders.

Others, however, who believe the current downturn is cyclical, remain cautiously optimistic about the future and are looking to a better long-term outlook for the ICT job seekers.

Online recruitment firm SEEK CEO Paul Bassat said the past three years in IT had been tough for job seekers, due to cyclical and structural issues, but that the outlook was positive.

“I’m really bullish about IT employment over the long term,” he said.

Putting the current situation in context, Mr Bassat said the crash and the decline in ICT jobs following from the Y2K build-up contributed to the oversupply of ICT professionals for the number of jobs available.

He said the number of IT jobs available continued to plummet from mid 2000 to early 2003, but that trend flattened by mid 2003.

“In the last three to four months there has been a modest pick-up of about 10 to 15 per cent in the number of IT job ads,” Mr Bassat said.

“IT job ad volumes have shown signs of improving sentiment in the second-half of this year, suggesting the market has finally bottomed-out after almost three years of solid decline. This has been consistent across all specialisations and cities, but most prominent in the Sydney market.

“Strongest ad volume growth has come in non-technical roles [such as] sales, consulting, project management.”

However, Mr Bassat said candidate competition remained high for help-desk support and IT management roles, with technical writers and multimedia roles more difficult to fill.

Australian Computer Society WA branch chairman Bob Cross was up-beat about the long-term future of the State’s ICT industry.

Mr Cross said WA had a strong basis for building a vibrant IT industry, including an educated work force, self-sufficient people, an ideal time zone, a high number of universities offering quality IT courses, and a good lifestyle.

“It doesn’t matter in IT what distance you are from the market,” he told WA Business News.

However, Dr Cross said while there had been a downturn of student numbers in IT courses at eastern States universities, that trend didn’t appear in WA until recently.

Dr Cross said at ECU, where he lectures, there was a “noticeable” decline in student applications for IT courses this semester.

This decline was from Australian student applications, and not overseas student applications courses, which had continued to grow.

In announcing the scrapping of ICT jobs from the MODL, Federal Employment Minister Kevin Andrews said the global downturn in the ICT industry had affected the Australian industry and that the decision to revise the ICT component indicated there were no longer any shortages in the industry.

“The revised MODL shows the Australian Government is closely monitoring the ICT labour market and the difficulties some Australian computing professionals have finding work,” he said.

The MODL is used by people seeking to migrate to Australia to increase their chances of success in the application process.

However, Mr Cross said more needed to be done to encourage Australia’s IT industry.


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