ICT skills shortage threatens economic growth: ACS

The value and continued growth of Australia’s digital economy is threatened by an acute shortage of skilled ICT workers, according to the Australian Computer Society (ACS).

ACS CEO Alan Patterson told an industry conference last week that a number of issues currently facing ICT in Australia have the potential to hinder the development of the digital economy, and the eHealth sector was not immune.

These include declining ICT university enrolments, a drop in skilled migration, an ageing workforce, and community misconceptions about the opportunities and rewards associated with an ICT career.

Mr Patterson said acute ICT skill shortages exist at a regional, industrial and occupational level, including in the eHealth and health ICT sector.

“eHealth initiatives represent the rapid pace of technological change and the growing role of ICT as an enabling platform for other industries,” he said.

“There is a need to foster workforce capacity and education to better utilise eHealth solutions.

"Demand forecasts suggest 14,000 ICT jobs will be generated in 2012 (across all areas), and an additional 21,000 jobs through 2013.

“Emerging technologies in the eHealth space will further drive demand for specialised ICT skills.

“ICT is critical to the eHealth sector as well as the Australian economy, and skills issues need national coordination and urgent policy focus.”

ACS statistical research shows that university enrolments in ICT are currently less than half of what they were a decade ago and that despite a small recovery last year – as a percentage of the total student body – numbers of ICT students are continuing to decline.

The ACS said the pronounced decline in ICT education is also evident in the VET sector where a decade ago 75,000 people received an ICT qualification but by 2010 this had declined to 46,000.

“We should be very concerned about sustaining the momentum of our vital $100bn digital economy,” Mr Patterson said.

“Australia’s digital economy is an undeniable force for productivity and value-add for every other industry sector, providing communications, social media platforms, data management and transaction processing capabilities that drive our economic performance.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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