Senator the Hon Helen Coonan
Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts
Providing ICT skills today for the demands of industry tomorrow
Launch of IT Pro Australia
Computing Technology Industry Association
Wednesday 19 October 2005
It is a great pleasure to join you this evening for the launch of the IT Pro program from the Computing Technology Industry Association.
I understand that the launch in Australia is the first stage in rolling out this innovation internationally, so we are leading the way.
ITPro will offer membership, services and a virtual community for many existing and potential IT employees who can not get them elsewhere
It is yet another indication of the strength and growing potential of ICT industries in Australia.
Setting the scene
Last month, I had the distinct pleasure of reporting that the World Economic Forum has recognised Australia as among the top 10 most economically competitive nations in the world.
The WEF released The Global Competitiveness Report 2005–06 that showed that Australia had improved against each component of the WEF competitive index, including technological readiness and innovation.
To emphasise the point, the WEF’s Chief Economist and Director of its Global Competitiveness Programme, Augusto Lopez-Carlos, said at the time:
“ Australia’s performance deserves generous praise. Australia gets top scores in those indicators which assess the country’s ability to absorb new technologies and use them to leverage the development process.”
I doubt that any of us here would disagree with him.
Importance of ICT skills to innovation & the economy
ICT is transforming our lives—it has become pervasive and embedded into all facets of the Australian economy, and it plays a key role in sustaining Australia’s international competitiveness.
At the heart of this transformation are our skilled ICT workers—as professionals who are increasingly moving into every sector of the economy.
It is a sector driven by knowledge, and by an ever expanding skills base.
Australia must have high-level ICT skills to be a sophisticated creator and user of ICT. It also needs the skills to manage the technology innovatively in the workplace.
As in so many areas of life, ICT is an area where we must continue to learn and develop our knowledge.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said “Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”
The Australian Government’s 10-year, $8.3 billion investment in the $8.3 billion Backing Australia’s Ability illustrates our commitment to supporting innovation and meeting our current and future skill needs.
The package includes support for an additional 5,470 higher education places in ICT, mathematics and science to strengthen the national skills base in these essential areas.
Further to this, I have established an ICT Skills Foresighting Group that will report back to me later this year on how to better match the skills available in the sector with the skills required by the industry.
Increasingly, employment as an ICT professional will require a broader range of skills and qualifications as well as the ability to work in a wider range of contexts than has been the case in the past.
Far from the stereotypical programmer, wedged behind a keyboard, banging out code, bereft of any human interaction, the ICT professional of the future will be expected to be creative, with interpersonal and project management skills, and expertise in areas such as health or education.
And to meet the workforce needs of our future ICT industry, we must draw on the deepest possible pool of talent.
That is why I want to identify barriers that prevent women from fully participating in ICT.
Last month I convened a summit in Sydney to bring together about 80 prominent industry, education and government leaders, including our host tonight.
The summit recognised that the shortage of women in the ICT profession is symptomatic of the broader issue of a potential ICT skills and capability shortage.
In coming years, Australia will need to deal with an ageing population and a smaller pool of young adults entering the workforce.
In this context, it is particularly important that we work to attract women and young, Generation Y people into the profession.
We need to change the way ICT is perceived by young people.
We must ensure that young people get the message that ICT is much more than rows of geeks in cubicles.
We need them to see that employment in ICT means being a highly skilled professional with a flexible and comprehensive set of technical and non-technical skills—working in a fast moving and dynamic industry, in all sectors of the economy.
Industry has a key role in all of this, and that is one of the reasons I am so heartened by developments such as the establishment of ITPro.
As an organisation I hope ITPro can help offer a path to people wanting to enter the industry, as well as helping to attract bright people to the IT field.
Global competition and the changes in industry demands mean workers in the ICT sector must constantly update their skills to keep up with innovation and development in the sector.
The support for IT Pro Australia from leading organisations in the global ICT industry—including Apple, Cisco, CompTIA, Hewlett Packard and Microsoft—can only strengthen its ability to support members and promote the value of ICT professionals.
Role of IT Pro and professional organisations
The information that IT Pro Australia provides about career development opportunities, in-demand skills and industry developments—as well as its forum for ICT professionals to network and collaborate—will contribute to the development of a strong and innovative workforce.
I look forward to IT Pro making a valuable contribution to the growth of Australia’s ICT skills—both by providing opportunities for skills development and by enlarging the scope for retention of skilled professionals.
The Government believes that it is important that our ICT professionals receive recognition for their skills and contribution.
We are working with professional bodies and industry towards implementing greater education, training and professional standards in the ICT industry to achieve such recognition.
I congratulate CompTIA on the launch of the IT Pro initiative in Australia and wish it every success in making a valuable contribution to the development of Australia’s ICT future.
I look forward to returning in the not-too-distant future to learn the results of the program.
Charles F. Kettering once said that we should all be concerned about the future, because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.
I hope the initiative we are launching here today is yet another weapon in the arsenal that will help us meet the challenges of that future head on.
I wish you all the best.