Despite the threat of rising unemployment figures, the IT industry itself has remained remarkably resilient. However, there is a serious shortage of niche skills particularly in high demand areas such as Cloud computing, Big Data and app development. But the demand is not consistent in every geography according to Hudson global resources IT&T practice manager, Martin Retschko.
"It's a complex market that we operate in and there are certain areas of demand within technology -- we're seeing a push for digital specialists, from technical to more business related professionals," he said.
Retschko said Cloud and customer-centric technology were particular areas where it was seeing demand for experts, as well as software development, Java skills, Web development and software engineering.
Splunk A/NZ country manager, Daniel Miller, said the skillset required for Cloud and Big Data was hard to find.
"We're also now starting to see organisations trying to find a skill set that could help them build enterprise grade solutions out of open source technology; it is a rare skill," Miller said.
On a national basis, ACS head of policy and external affairs, Adam Redman, noted particular demand for business analysts, social media and app developers, particularly in gamification, which involves applying the mechanics and narrative structure of a game into sales and marketing, learning and customer experience.
Redman said there was also bias amongst employers to use short-term contractors rather than hire people for full-time positions. The time frame for contract workers has also shrunk from a 12-24 months to about two months for some IT professions.
"IT people are usually quicker than other professions at keeping their skills up to date," he said. " The IT industry is continuously evolving and IT professionals need do that as well."
ASI Solutions director, Maree Lowe, highlighted one of the biggest issues driving the possibility of a skills shortage, was training.
"We need to rethink how we're re-skilling people. I don't think there's enough focus on training and the way the industry is working on training with conferences is old-fashioned," she said.
Lowe suggested the Government as well as vendors should provide rebates and incentives for training. "We've got to continually address the cost of training people up in all this new technology. Everybody has had to make cuts in the past 24 months, but you can't cut training because that's what keeps you moving forward," she said.
Express Data CEO, David Gage, said technical sales, specialised marketing roles and solutions architects, were competitive areas of attracting talent.
"It's not just about the salary, they want to understand what the incremental benefits are, training and development opportunities, and what a career roadmap may look like for them. Those areas are key in attracting talent," Gage said.
Due to the tough economic environment, a lot of companies have scaled back their HR departments, but Express Data has increased its resources in that area.
"It's paid dividends. We have a dedicated internal recruitment team and they have a deep understanding of our culture and needs of our customers so they can identify people that are going to be a fit for the organisation, Gage said.
Hudson's Retschko said businesses should focus on long-term human resource planning and hiring the right talent upfront.
"It's also about taking time to understand the makeup of your workforce, having options for people to develop their career in-house, and ensuring you have the right leaders with the right people skills and approach to developing staff," he said.
Kiandra IT has graced BRW's 50 Best Places to Work list, and managing director, Cameron Brookes, said its recognition came down to focusing on company culture.
"We have a generous training and development initiative and our industry evolves so quickly that we need to stay at the forefront," Brookes said. "We provide lots of little perks but, ultimately, its about the environment employees come into."
Brookes said building a culture of talent and high-performers attracts other like-minded individuals. "They're surrounded by pretty smart and passionate people and they're in an environment where they can express themselves, learn and contribute."
Kiandra is hiring within its software development and infrastructure team, mostly business analyst roles, project managers and .net developers. But getting the right staff isn't easy, Brookes said. The company had used 457 visas to get the right skills.
Back to the beginning
The Federal Government is trying to remedy the skills shortage through spending $6.5 million in the next four years on its new Digital Careers program to encourage more students to pursue an ICT career.
This recognises that Australia faces a widening gap between demand for ICT skills and the supply of qualified workers.
In the past decade 100,000 jobs have been created in Australia, 12,000 in the past year. But the number of students studying IT at university has halved in that same period, according to the Australian Computer Society.
"Even though there's 10,000 jobs a year created in IT, there are only 4500 students studying IT at university, and not all of them graduate. IT at university has a very high attrition rate, people find it boring, too hard or it's not taught in the right way," ACS' Redman said.
How to be a best employer
IT distributor, Express Data, has collected a few AON Hewitt Best Employer awards. How did it achieve this? The first step to gain accreditation is through reaching an engagement score benchmark of 65 per cent or higher in an employee opinion survey. Next is completing a people practises inventory and final stage involves AON Hewitt validating the data and information through an audit process.
Express Data CEO, David Gage, said it had been able demonstrate high staff engagement does lead to better financial results, and it has had a meaningful improvement on its own operating profit year-on-year. A lot of organisations look at financial rewards, but that's only one piece of the puzzle, he said.
"We look at areas like training and development, broader staff benefits program, opportunities for career progression, giving people an understanding of the company's vision and strategy," Gage said.
"One of the key elements of staff engagement and retention is that people want feel like what they do everyday makes a difference to the organisation."
During the past 12 months, Express Data has also implemented a high achievers club, called Inspired.