ICT body pushes for internship programme

Government departments and industry association NZICT are looking into the possibility of establishing an internship programme for technology graduates as concerns resurface about a global skills shortage in the sector.

The Australian government last week overhauled immigration rules for IT workers, aiming to make it quicker and easier for employers to recruit staff from overseas.

NZICT chief executive Brett O'Riley estimates there are about 50,000 IT workers in New Zealand.

A survey of businesses published by the industry body in November reported that 83 of 101 respondents were having difficulties hiring qualified and experienced staff and that this was having "a medium to major effect on their businesses".

Despite the skills shortage, O'Riley says people entering the job market with tertiary qualifications are still finding work hard to get.

"If we are going to invest in providing education for students we should be looking to invest in programmes that make them `job-ready'."

O'Riley has met with Labour Department officials to discuss options for an internship scheme, but planning is at the early stages. "In Australia there is one, and we think it has been very successful."

Employers are looking for candidates with communications skills who can show teamwork, he says. "We have started to call them `tough skills' instead of `soft skills'. They are the factors most employers are looking at when deciding whether someone is right for them."

Australia's Immigration and Citizenship Department will dump a list of 14 highly-specific computer occupations that were used to assess the skills of migrants, nine of which were based on qualifications for proprietary software products for Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.

Instead, migrants will be judged on whether they have skills in five broad categories. Australian Information Industry Association chief executive Ian Birks says the new definitions will be more flexible for an industry where products and their suppliers could change rapidly.

O'Riley says the New Zealand industry works closely with the Labour Department, which is already proactive in trying to attract the right migrants here. He expected the Australian change would have an effect only at the margins in the competition for skilled works.

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