It was no shock when the ACT Government added information and computer technology managers to its list of occupations suffering a critical skills shortage earlier this year. The national STEM skills shortage is something Commonwealth Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, took to the recent Jobs Summit, describing science as “humanity’s super power”.

Computing is the “super power” that is vital to the future of Canberra.

Students coming from overseas to study in Australia will always be an important source of STEM talent and the ACT economy needs university students to fill a host of jobs, during study and after graduation. But what if the ACT was a self-sustaining source of STEM graduates with an equally sharp focus on both universities and the Vocational Education and Training system?

There are good reasons to think it can be.

Its information and computing technology sector holds the key. The nation’s capital is a smart place where four-in-ten Canberrans have Bachelor degrees or better – almost twice the national average. Its five universities are world class and the Canberra Institute of Technology, a multi-campus VET college that caters to 19,000 students annually, including 600 from overseas.  

Terms such as “skills crisis” and “war for talent” might be top of the pops in the hospitality sector right now but are not new to the IT sector. Companies like DXC Technology have recognised that they must collaborate with governments and training providers and invest in staff whose skills will be in heavy future demand.  It has been developing solutions to attract, train and retain staff in an environment where rapid change in skills is needed as technology evolves and adapts. There is an underlying need in the ACT for well-skilled employees who understand legacy technologies but can adapt to new and evolving IT requirements.

DXC started doing this with the TAFE system in Tasmania in 2015, creating paths for students and giving them hands on, real world experience with our customers. Eighty percent of our employees in the Apple Isle are now home-grown graduates.  

We took the strategy to South Australia where we collaborate with TAFE SA on certificate and diploma level work placements and traineeships. The collaboration provides industry recognised certifications, mentoring and on-the-job experience,  and more than 85% of graduates are employed within three months.

Originally published in the Riot ACT.

About the Author

Natasha Copley is APAC Chief of Staff for DXC Technology.

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