Future of work

Report: The IT sector leans too heavily on uni degrees and needs to loosen up, says ACS

- October 18, 2022 3 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock
Australian employers could resolve ICT skills shortages by winding back their expectations that candidates have university degrees, according to an extensive ACS analysis that found there are more jobs posted in ICT than any other profession except healthcare.

ICT job postings increased by 14% between 2016 and 2021 and have outpaced the overall employment market by 15% since the pandemic began, the newly published ACS Guide to IT Professions 2022 found, but many employers are limiting themselves by demanding that ICT workers have university qualifications.

Fully 97% of ICT job postings in Australia stipulate that applicants have at least a bachelor’s degree, according to the report – which is based on a Lightcast analysis of millions of job postings between 2016 and 2021 – but this is much higher than comparable economies like the UK (90%) and US (86%).

“Although globally ICT occupations traditionally require higher levels of education, the requirements in Australia are noticeably more stringent than the requirements for similar postings in the UK and US,” the report notes in reviving a long-simmering debate around the university sector’s dominance over ICT qualifications.

“Since skills and responsibilities across those occupations tend to be similar regardless of geography and in light of the global labour shortage, the analysis suggests that by loosening education requirements, employers of ICT occupations could open themselves up to a much larger potential workforce.”

Australian ICT job postings were also more likely to request three or more years’ experience than other occupation families, with just 21% classified as ‘entry level’ – much lower than in the UK market, where entry-level ICT jobs comprise just under 35% of all advertised roles.

The analysis explores demand in areas such as cyber security – in which job postings nearly doubled between 2016 and 2021, with more than twice as many cyber security roles in the ACT as nationally.

The ACS Guide to IT Professions 2022.

The state governments of Victoria and NSW, as well as the Australian government, posted the most cyber security related jobs while Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, CBA, Accenture, PwC, Amazon, Macquarie Group, and the ANZ Banking Group rounded out the top 10 cyber security employers during 2021.

“For students looking for a career in technology, the Guide is designed to serve as a pointer to industry demand and put them on a path to a productive career,” said ACS president Dr Nick Tate.

“For established professionals, it can serve as a guide to wages, and skills, showing them the opportunities that are available and the skills that are most in demand. And for employers, it is designed to be a help when it comes to understanding the market, to benchmarking wages, and to understanding hiring.”

Charting Australia’s ICT skills shortage

The report includes detailed profiles of 28 different ICT professions – including the most frequently-requested skills and certifications, salary expectations, and changes in occupation demand between 2016 and 2021.

While demand for web administrators declined by 21.1% over that time, for example, there were 4,776 Business Intelligence Analyst roles advertised in 2021 – marking an 8.5% increase over the analysis period.

Applicants for those roles can expect average salaries of $116,000 this year if they can bring skills such as Microsoft Power BI, DevOps, Python, Confluence, and Atlassian Jira.

The fastest-growing career area was Software Developer/Engineer, which saw a 21.5% increase in the number of job postings during the analysis period and an average salary of $112,000 – echoing new Census figures that found programmers represent the single largest tranche of ICT roles.

The most requested certifications for ICT jobs include ITIL certification, CISSP, Salesforce certification, Cisco CCNP, Cisco CCNA, CISM, TOGAF certification, and Cisco CCIE qualifications.

Yet even as employers in high-demand areas like cyber security wind back their expectations around certifications, applicants shouldn’t expect to clinch their dream job just by providing a laundry list of technical skills: employers continue to value soft skills such as business analysis, communication, teamwork and collaboration, problem solving, and stakeholder management.

“Employers are asking for much more than technical skills,” said Dr Tate, “and IT professionals need to develop additional professional skills to succeed.”

Ultimately, said ACS CEO Chris Vein, laying down a detailed map of industry demand will be crucial to helping universities, training organisations and employers develop a more unified approach to addressing Australia’s chronic skills shortage.

“We need to ensure that our skills pipelines are sending people down the right path,” he said.

“If we can make sure that Australian IT workers are learning the skills most needed, then we can ensure that Australia’s IT professionals are the envy of the world, delivering high-paying jobs for our IT professionals and the value that business needs to keep Australia moving forward.”

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