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Import lost skills

THE information technology skills drain need not be one way – Australia should import IT people from overseas, says Unisys People CEO Monty Sachdev.

“The UK and the US are leading the information technology boom at the moment and Australia is sitting right at the tail end of the value chain,” Mr Sachdev said.

“There are only a few software development labs here and as a country we are simply not investing enough in generating skills.

“Australia is such a small market – and we’re keeping it that way but by not changing our mentality to be more competitive.

“I believe corporates themselves should commit a greater proportion of revenue to skills generation. We should actively encourage more women to view IT as an attractive career choice, involve people in cross-training and re-train laid-off IT people who changed careers after the fall-off in the early 90s.

“In the meantime, we have to resort to importing staff.

“The average Australian company just doesn’t think on a global level. Paradoxically, most Australians have a sense of adventure but we are too inward looking and protective of our industries.”

Mr Sachdev said hiring international staff was mutually beneficial.

“In much of Asia, South Africa and Ireland, people are keen to escape from political strife and come here to safe haven,” he said.

“An improved lifestyle here is a large part of the appeal.

“India, for example, is a major force in surplus IT skills. They were last in the IT race. They had no history of expenditure on expensive old technology and have a highly educated workforce.”

Mr Sachdev said there was a lag between finding suitable university graduates and market demand. He said many academic institutions were “out of step with the pace at which technology moves.”

Unisys People WA state manager Sue Williams said local IT workers were being lured to higher paying roles on the eastern seaboard.

“Unfortunately, WA has a high number of branch offices but key roles are head office based,” Ms Williams said.

“That is where staff can get career opportunities and higher salaries.

“For some reason, as a state we seem to be hesitant to embrace skilled resources from Indian and parts of Asia. There is a marketplace perception that these countries are less informed, but the reverse is often the reality.”

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