by George Nott

IT grads beaten by better-prepared migrants to jobs: report

Aug 08, 2016

Despite the abundance of jobs in the field, Australian IT graduates struggle to find employment because they’re not properly prepared for the workplace and face stiff competition from skilled migrants, says a report.

The Grattan Institute’s Mapping Australian higher education 2016, found that a third of recent IT graduates looking for full-time work had not found it after four months.

The report, released today, said this was partly due to ‘weaknesses in IT university education’.

Education shortcomings

“Employers in Australia are dissatisfied with the quality of IT graduates,” it noted. “IT graduate skills and attributes are mismatched with the labour market.

“As is the case for graduates generally, interpersonal and communication shortcomings may hold IT graduates back.”

Students were seemingly aware of being poorly prepared. The report said that “IT students are less satisfied with their skills development, and are more likely to leave their courses without finishing, than are other students.”

It drew on Department of Education and Training statistics that showed just over 63 per cent of the students who started an IT degree in 2005 had completed eight years later, compared to nearly 74 per cent for all undergraduates. However, these attrition rates are improving.

Overseas competition

As well as a lack of workplace readiness, Australian IT graduates also struggled to find work related to their degree due to competition from migrants, the report said.

“Migration has transformed the IT labour force, affecting the opportunities of domestic graduates…domestic IT graduates face continued competition from skilled migrants,” it noted.

A significant proportion of IT workers in Australia have come from overseas, the report said, citing Australian Bureau of Statistics figures showing that in 2015, workers with qualifications from overseas made up 30 per cent of employed IT professionals.

Despite the declining number of 457 visa holders overall, the number of IT professionals on 457 visas has grown, to nearly 11,000 this year.

As well as needing to recruit from overseas to gain the right skills, economics were also at play, the report said: “Especially when the Australian dollar is high, the expense of in-house ICT services compared to cheaper alternatives overseas affects the way the ICT industry operates in Australia.”

Engineers excel

The report, which looked at the prospects of STEM graduates in Australia, found that engineering graduates found employment more easily than IT and science graduates. Three-quarters of new engineering graduates looking for full-time work found it within four months, and they had the highest rate of professional or managerial employment of all STEM graduates.

“Engineering jobs are in decline, but new engineers have good job prospects compared to other graduates. IT graduates seem unable to take full advantage of job growth in the IT industry,” the report said.

“In IT, universities are not supplying the graduates needed by a fast-moving industry. Although IT has the largest labour market of any of the STEM fields, many graduates struggle to compete in a global market for IT staff and services.”