20 August 2020
3 min read
First published in the Australian Financial Review, Wednesday 19 August 2020
The federal Employment Minister, Michaelia Cash, gave tentative support for such a scheme on Tuesday, although state governments will be central to the decision.
Apprenticeships now cover dozens of areas such as electricians and carpenters but the rapidly growing information technology industry is still yet to have a formalised apprenticeship program.
Given the growth in technological change, accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis, along with persistent cyber attacks, governments and the private sector have been left short of an adequately skilled IT workforce.
Now the $2.2 billion financial markets technology company Iress, along with REA Group, SEEK, MYOB, Slack and Catapult have signed an in principle agreement calling for a new IT apprenticeship scheme.
"There are no IT apprenticeships – they just don't exist – it's crazy given the demand for them," Mr Walsh said.
"The problem is that if someone comes in from school, works for us for three years and then goes to another company, that company will just say you have no formal certificate so the experience means nothing," he said.
"We would need the [state and federal] governments to provide the infrastructure, administration and formalise the apprenticeships."
Skills reform 'essential'
Iress has already agreed to a levy for a similar scheme based in Britain. The levy there is equivalent to 0.5 per cent of the company's British payroll annually, which goes into a pool that can then be used for training.
The federal Employment Minister has already indicated she wants such a scheme, after signalling earlier this month the federal government wanted to build a cyber army across the public and private sector with an additional 76,000 recruits by 2024.
"The proposal put to us by the group of companies deserves further exploration," Senator Cash said.
"That is why my office has put the group in contact with the Digital Skills Organisation to learn more about this initiative and to ascertain if this proposal would fit with the Digital Skills Organisation’s focus," she said.
"Further collaboration between the private sector and government to get better outcomes for workers will be critical to our national recovery."
The Morrison government recently fast-tracked new training qualifications for the information and communications technology (ICT) sector with the Australian Industry and Skills Committee and its COVID-19 subcommittee. This will help establish rapid development of vocational education and training products during the COVID-19 crisis.
Skills reform is seen as one of the most critical areas of economic reform.
At The Australian Financial Review's Reshaping Australia Dialogue last week, former productivity commissioner and national COVID-19 co-ordination commissioner Peter Harris said reforming skills education was critical.
"People say if you only had one area to work in, which I hate that kind of question, but nevertheless, where would you go? And I said, I'd go to skills."
By Matthew Cranston, Economics correspondent at Australian Financial Review.