Ride the tech race
Rapid technological change is putting staff on the fast-track to high salaries, Lauren Ahwan and Cara Jenkin report.
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.
Stephen Silver graduated from UniSA five years ago and is now a director of LOCL.