IT skills development a top business priority

More businesses are making technology skills development a top priority this year but changes to 457 visas will make it difficult for them to find people with high-level knowledge to train local staff, said Steve Shepherd, operations director of HR firm Randstad.

The $2000 limit for tax deductibles on work-related self-education expenses will also make it hard for IT professionals to keep their skills up to date with the needs of the industry and as their jobs continue to evolve.

According to Shepherd, many organisations undergoing technology transformations will look to up-skill staff so they can operate the new technologies once they are in place.

“I think we will see more and more [skills development activities] take place as organisations are looking at the way that they interact through their business, how they are connecting with their customers and technology is always at the front of that.”

But having the right skilled staff to train is an issue as registrations for IT degrees and related courses continue to decline.

“Not only are we restricting overseas incoming workers who bring those skills and train the local people, they are also stopping local workers from training themselves and doing courses," he said.

“If you can’t bring the talent in and you haven’t got them developed here, then the only option is to go offshore. I can’t see what else would be an option there.”

Australian Computer Society president Nick Tate said the limit on work-related self-training would discourage professional development which could force businesses into having to become more reliant on 457 visas.

The government has claimed that the 457 visa reforms are for the purpose of ensuring organisations genuinely fill a skills gap in the short to medium term.

Shepherd said the reforms are short-sighted and lack any real long-term solution to addressing the IT skills shortage in Australia.

In the war for talent, Shepherd said organisations could do better when looking to attract young IT graduates and developing their skills internally by having them work on different projects.

“A lot of businesses tend to shout out about how big they are. For a Gen Y worker, they don’t really care about your business,” he said.

“It’s about opportunities to learn and develop their skills to work on different projects. Young people are attracted to variety of work so it’s really about their self-development rather than being in a job where they do the same thing.”

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