Australian official announces a skills summit

Just a few months after he got the state's ICT industry offside, the Premier of Queensland, an Australian state, Peter Beattie has announced a national summit to focus on skills challenges facing the ICT industry to be held there early next year.

Beattie said that the looming skills crisis was not only limited to the ICT sector; however, at the same time as demand for ICT skills has increased, young Australians enrollments in undergrad university ICT courses are dropping. Early in the year the premier's comments after extending a multinational's contract, that he "had to choose the best", resulted in an uproar in the local IT sector and saw the industry set up a special group to work with government.

Speaking at the Australian Computer Society's ICT Industry lunch in Brisbane last week, Beattie said even though university applications from year 12 students has increased by 1400 applications over last year, demand for ICT courses in 2006 fell by 12 percent on top of a massive 30 percent drop for the previous year.

"These are matters of concern to the industry, to the Queensland government, and, ultimately, to our society as a whole," Beattie said.

"We've got to encourage more young people into an industry, which, after all, is skilled, well paid and likely to continue to grow strongly. We've also got to develop a system of accreditation for workers in the industry who don't have a university degree and whose skills are therefore not recognized through any common benchmark.

"There is a strong element of self-interest on the government's part in addressing these issues; we could not function without the ICT and the sounder and stronger the industry is, the better."