Ride the tech race

Rapid tech­no­log­i­cal change is putting staff on the fast-track to high salaries, Lau­ren Ah­wan and Cara Jenkin re­port.

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JOB op­por­tu­ni­ties in the in­for­ma­tion, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and tech­nol­ogy sec­tor are streak­ing ahead of the rest of the em­ploy­ment mar­ket, push­ing up salaries and cre­at­ing work.

The thirst for staff with high-end com­put­ing knowl­edge has caused job va­can­cies for ICT pro­fes­sion­als to grow by 55.2 per cent since the start of 2010.

Flin­ders Univer­sity re­search re­veals it is more than twice the av­er­age rate of other oc­cu­pa­tion growth of 20 per cent but is caus­ing a skills short­age with not enough grad­u­ates en­ter­ing the work­force to meet de­mand for work­ers. The re­search finds a loom­ing short­age of 1500 com­puter pro­fes­sion­als.

The Aus­tralian Com­puter So­ci­ety says ICT pro­fes­sion­als are in de­mand in a wide range of fields in­clud­ing bank­ing and com­merce, the min­er­als pro­cess­ing and min­ing sec­tors, agri­cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, busi­ness, the en­vi­ron­men­tal and en­ergy sec­tors, man­u­fac­tur­ing and me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­tries.

Grad­u­ates who start out in con­sul­tancy can earn up to $100,000 a year.

The av­er­age an­nual salary for ICT pro­fes­sion­als in Aus­tralia is $70,200, with soft­ware and ap­pli­ca­tions pro­gram­mers earn­ing as much as $110,000 a year, sys­tems ad­min­is­tra­tors up to $105,000, sys­tems ana- lysts up to $120,000 and more se­nior staff as much as $240,000 a year.

The ACS re­ports work­ers are re­ceiv­ing an­nual salary rises of about 5 per cent, well above the 3 to 4 per cent of work­ers in other in­dus­tries.

Univer­sity of South Aus­tralia School of Com­puter and In­for­ma­tion Science head Pro­fes­sor Andy Koro­nios says the ‘‘nerdy’’ im­age of com­puter pro­gram­mers deters many from tak­ing up the ca­reer, de­spite it be­ing a re­ward­ing pro­fes­sion.

‘‘The (im­age of com­puter) geeks or the guys in (tele­vi­sion show) The­Big Bang The­ory is what peo­ple think of (ICT pro­fes­sion­als) but re­ally, to be frank, that’s only a small per­cent­age of what the job is about,’’ he says.

‘‘Peo­ple are mak­ing re­ally big money (in the ICT sec­tor) but the im­age is one of the prob­lems we have had in the IT in­dus­try for a while now.

‘‘I find that women have very, very good skills (in com­put­ing) but not many women come into IT as a pro­fes­sion be­cause they think it’s all about pro­gram­ming. It’s a mis­con­cep­tion.

‘‘If you love hack­ing, you can go into IT se­cu­rity, for ex­am­ple. Com­puter pro­gram­ming is not even five per cent (of what the in­dus­try in­volves).’’

The In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy Con­tract and Re­cruit­ment As­so­ci­a­tion re­ports the top 10 skills in de­mand by em­ploy­ers in­clude help desk, pro­ject man­age­ment, java and struc­tured query lan­guage.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Julie Mills says em­ploy­ers have a dwin­dling pool of can­di­dates from which to choose, which is wors­ened be­cause there is still lit­tle cor­re­la­tion be­tween the skills em­ploy­ers are re­quest­ing, and those of­fered by can­di­dates.

‘‘Only two of the top 10 skills in de­mand by em­ploy­ers are among the top 10 skills of­fered by can­di­dates,’’ she says.

There also are in­creas­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for ICT pro­fes­sion­als to be self-em­ployed, with even grad­u­ates able to start their own busi­ness straight out of univer­sity.

Pro­fes­sor Koro­nios es­ti­mates about 10 per cent of grad­u­ates are now choos­ing to set up their own busi­ness im­me­di­ately af­ter grad­u­a­tion.

Stephen Sil­ver, 31, grad­u­ated from UniSA with de­grees in com­puter science and man­age­ment.

He spent sev­eral years work­ing for large cor­po­ra­tions be­fore be­com­ing co-di­rec­tor of com­put­ing con­sul­tancy, Locl, in 2008.

‘‘(Be­ing self-em­ployed) was al­ways on the cards – I have al­ways been more in­ter­ested in busi­ness than core IT,’’ he says.

He says the ex­pe­ri­ence he gained as an em­ployee was in­valu­able but be­ing his own boss is ful­fill­ing.

Pic­ture: Brooke Whatnall

Stephen Sil­ver grad­u­ated from UniSA five years ago and is now a di­rec­tor of LOCL.

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