The Australian Computing Society (ACS) has welcomed Labor’s promise to introduce initiatives to strengthen Australia’s digital cohort and close the IT skills gap, but cautioned these actions “simply can’t wait until 2017”.
The peak representative body for the ICT sector is urging more rapid action from politicians, following Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s promise to teach coding in schools and promote a greater focus on Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related skills, if Labor were elected.
ACS CEO Andrew Johnson said the timetable must be moved forward if Australia is to benefit from the growth in the digital economy.
“Together with the strong support for coding and STEM skills we are now seeing from the business community, the ACS believes we now have a powerful platform and alignment of views to take these initiatives forward immediately,” he said.
“It is already happening [in other nations] and we and the business community stand ready to work with the political parties to get this underway in Australia, so we can start building a skilled digital workforce for the future.”
Minister Shorten, during his formal Budget Reply on Thursday night, offered political “co-operation” with Labor’s newly-unveiled science and technology push for schools and jobs.
As part of the proposed program, the government would spend $25 million to train teachers in programming to ensure every school teaches computer coding, while student debts for 20,000 science graduates would be waived each year for five years.
Labor also promised to provide 25,000 teaching scholarships – worth $15,000 each – over five years to science graduates.
“Coding is the literacy of the 21st century and under Labor every young Australian will have a chance to read, write and work with the global language of the digital age,” Shorten said.
“A career in science does not just mean a lifetime in a lab coat, it means opening doors in every facet of our commercial life.”