Labour shortage in IT industry despite recession

Martin PurvisA ministry of Economic Development survey has revealed there is a significant shortage of skilled labour in the IT industry, despite the recession and consequent job losses.

The situation has prompted the University of Otago to increase its intake of information science students by up to 100% during the next two years.

New Zealand Information and Communications Technology chief executive Brett O'Riley said the survey, conducted by NZICT on behalf of the ministry, showed 83% of companies surveyed found difficulties in recruiting qualified, skilled and experienced staff, and it was having a medium to major effect on their businesses.

However, the survey also revealed companies were expecting continued growth in staff levels during the coming months, and more than 50% of companies surveyed were planning to appoint technical staff.

Mr O'Riley said it demonstrated continued employment opportunities and demand across a range of highly paid roles, including programming, project management, and network and systems engineering in both the IT and telecommunications industries.

"These roles are essential to New Zealand's drive to improve productivity and also generate foreign exchange."

University of Otago Information Science Department head Prof Martin Purvis said about 80 information technology and computer science students graduated from the university each year, and most - if not all - received multiple job offers as soon as they left.

"These graduates have been swallowed up as quick as we've been able to churn them out over the last couple of years.

"The situation is so serious, places like Telecom are importing skilled IT people from overseas to help fill the need for skilled staff."

Prof Purvis believed the demand for IT staff was now easing, but the shortage was still significant.

The university was now trying to encourage Otago secondary school pupils to study information technology at a tertiary level, in the hope it would help boost the university's intake into the department by up to 100%.

"That will definitely help the situation."

Mr O'Riley said NZICT was also working closely with the education sector and other industry stakeholders with a comprehensive programme to address the skills shortage and ensure students and potential employees are aware of the opportunities that await them.

"ICT roles command above-average remuneration both domestically and internationally, and they are in high demand.

"ICT education and skills are a global employment passport, making a 21st-century OE a highly lucrative opportunity for many young New Zealanders," he said.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz