ICT Trends –Addressing the Skills Gap
Government agencies and industriesin the major developed economies around the world are
becoming increasingly alarmed at the growing ICT skills gap.Students choosing to study Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are reported to be declining in a number of
countries, including New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the USA, while the need for
huge numbers of engineers and technicians is forecastedfor the predicted continuing growth in ICT
The response to the challenge of closing the skills gap appears to be fairly consistent worldwide and
involves targeting school students from an early age, designing and/or updating the ICT curriculum
and in getting industry involved in promoting the ICT sector.
Extracts from a variety of recent articles posted on the Internet provideevidence of these
ongoingconcerns and the strategies proposed to help reverse the falling enrolments in STEM
subjects in secondary and tertiary institutions.
North America (USA)
According to a recent North American Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
report, between 2011 and 2015an estimated 1.7 million jobs will be created in cloud computing.
Mobile application (“apps”) technology has fostered 311,000 jobs in the “app economy” and by
2018, the bulk of STEM jobs will be in Computing (71%) followed by Traditional Engineering (16%),
Physical Sciences (7%), Life Sciences (4%) and Mathematics (2%)(Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 Percentage of New STEM Jobs by Sector through 2018
The report highlights a growing concern, over the past decade,among government agencies, national
organizations and private industry over the declining state of STEM education in the United States. It
identifies targeting high school students with an existing interest in STEM fields as the focus
population for best addressing future workforce requirements in the crucial areas of Science,
Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
A recent Sydney Morning Herald article has Australia's Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, warning that
without a strategic approach to the key areas of science, maths, technology and engineering
(STEM), Australia will find itself at the back of the global pack.He emphasised the USA’s five-year
plan to fund and produce 100,000 new STEM teachers and 1 million STEM graduates in the coming
decade.China, India, the UK, Japan and Taiwan were also mentioned as among numerous countries
with strategic plans outlining national goals and priorities in the sciences.
The Australian Computer Societyhas called for support to address ICT skills shortages, highlighting
the halving of tertiary ICT enrolments over the past decade. It has recommended reforming school
curricula, reversing the decline in tertiary enrolments, introducing professional standards and
certification for workers, and upping support for “displaced workers, particularly those of a mature
Two recent articles in Computing.co.uk have focussed on the global skills gap in computer science
skills and thecontinuing lack of popularity of ICT leading to a drop in the number of students
choosing to study this subject.
Anew computing curriculum, due for implementation in September, has the potential to open the
door for more focussed technical teaching, given its new computer science focus.With computing
now a core skill, GCSE Computer Science has been included in the English Baccalaureate.
Given a recent report conducted by SAS with e-skills UK revealing that jobs created by big data are
forecasted to increase by 18% per year on average between 2012 and 2017, the industry will be
anticipating increases in home-grown graduates to fill the current and projected skills shortage.
After five years of recession Ireland continues to struggle with unemployment and emigration while
the country’s IT sector is struggling to fill the 6,000 or so IT job vacancies.
According to Julia Davenport, head of Fidelity’s IT 500-strong workforce in Ireland, multinationals
need to get better at communicating the range of existing ICT roles with the trend moving toward
analytics and data visualisation.The vibrant technology industry in Ireland needs to keep an eye on
the supply and demand of talent which extends back to the school curriculum.
Industry partnerships with schools and academia need improving to ensure a continuing supply of
talent coming from the schools and feeding into the ICT pipeline.
The new NCEA ICT Achievement Standards, adopted in 2010, have provided the New Zealand
secondary school sector with a more rigorous, academically focussed and credible tech-based
subject (Refer IITP Newsletter Feb 2013).
Designed to capture bright, motivated and talented students and get them interested and involved
in Digital Technologies as career pathways, these academic assessment standards are tertiary
The rollout of the levels 1, 2 and 3 NCEA digital technologies achievement standards from 2011 to
this year provides a unique opportunity in the near future to quantify the impact on the numbers of
students choosing ICT as a career option.
Other countries could benefit from implementing similar programmes to the IITP ICT-
Connect initiative, New Zealand's first dedicated nationwide ICT Outreach programmedesigned to
inspire and educate young people about future career options in the ICT sector.
The first of theplanned regional ICT-Connect Careers Expos, held in Christchurch earlier this yearand
open to all regionalsecondary school students and their parents, focussed on disproving some of the
misperceptions that both students and parents have about what an IT career actually is. The success,
or otherwise, of this very positive initiative will require some careful analysis of the outcomes in two
or three years’ time.
Government agencies, professional bodies and the ICT industry in many countries appear to be
responding to the challenge of closing the growing ICT skills gap with similar strategies and
Developing long term plans to set national goals and priorities in the sciences
Increasing the number of students taking the STEM subjects
Updating and/or revising the school curriculum
Developing partnerships between industry and schools and academia
Introducing professional standards and certification for employees
Only time will tell whether these initiatives produce the desired effect of increasing the student
uptake of the STEM subjects and ultimately lead to greater numbers of ICT graduates.
ICT Online Job Ads
Seek ICT job adverts(Fig.2) decreased 2.7 per cent for August and are 9.5% down on the same time
last year.Overall, Seek ICT job ads for all NZ to August have increased by 56 per cent since the
beginning of this year.
Fig.2 Seek ICT Job Adverts Monthly Trends 2010 –2013(August)
Figure 3has Trademe IT up by 38 per cent on January’s figure, but significantly lower than the August
2012 figure; i.e. 20 per cent fewer adverts.
Fig.3 Seek ICT &Trademe IT Job Advert Trends to August 2013
Figure 4illustrates an overall decrease in Seek ICT job advertsfor Augustof 2.4 per cent for Auckland
(+9 per cent for July), 12.3 per cent for Canterbury (+11 per cent for July) and2.7 per centfor allNew
Fig.4 Seek ICT Job Advert Trends Monthly Change for August 2013
Figure 7provides a detailed record of the Seek ICT job advert trends by region to August2013. Seek
ICT job ads for Auckland are48 per centup on the January figures whileWellington is up 47.5 per cent
and Canterbury45 per cent for the same period.
Fig.5 Seek ICT Job Advert Monthly Trends to August 2013
The total number of August ICT job ads in theCloud category for Auckland has increased by 47 per
cent over the last 12 months while all NZ is 32 per cent up on August 2012 (Fig.6). The developer role
dominates the Cloud job ads category at 27 per cent with the analyst role a close second at 23 per
Fig.6Seek ICT Cloud Job Ads by Region – August 2013
Fig.7 Seek ICT Cloud Job Ads by Category – August 2013
News Bytes: A to Z
Australia – Brisbane Times (August 2013)
The Australian Computer Society called for the main parties to tackle issues it claims are preventing
the economy from prospering in the digital era, including the controversial problem of ICT skills
Ireland – SiliconRepublic (August 2013)
It is ironic that while Ireland continues to struggle with unemployment and emigration after five
years of recession, the country’s IT sector is still creating jobs and is actually struggling to fill them.
Ireland – The Careers Portal Team (August 2013)
A forthcoming report from the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs highlights continuing strong
demand from enterprise for high-level ICT skills, both within the ICT sector and across other sectors
of the economy. The study forecasts the demand for high-level computing and electronic and
electrical engineering skills over the next five years.
NZ Herald (August 2013)
Entrepreneurs are driven by the next big idea, the next big trend, and New Zealand has a number of
prominent people leading the way, including Xero's Rod Drury and the Ryan brothers of YikeBike
NZ IITP Newsline (August 2013): Auckland University's Professor John Hosking was recently
interviewed to find out how, after two years in the role, he finds the Australian academic
environment comparatively, and what New Zealand can learn from our Aussie cousins about
teaching computer science.
Pakistan – IDG Connect (August 2013)
By integrating ICT solutions in educational systems to improve bottom-line literacy rates and reduce
unemployment, foreign agencies and local organisations are introducing new models of elearning in
Pakistan with support from the government.
UK – Computing.co.uk (August 2013)
Lloyds Banking Group is looking for 30 IT apprentices to take up specialist roles that it says cannot be
filled by graduates.
UK – Computing.co.uk (August 2013)
IT managers at SMEs will be made redundant in the next five years and replaced by a financial
director or CIO, according to the MD of data centre provider City Lifeline, Roger Keenan.
UK – Computing.co.uk (August 2013)
Oracle's approach to help plug the skills gap is to increasingly begin offering resources and training
"at student" level, as well as the courses - such as its Java teacher training - it already offers to
UK – Computing.co.uk (August 2013)
Cisco is to axe five per cent of its workforce, or 4,000 staff in the next year as part of its restructuring
UK – Wired.co.uk (August 2013)
Apprenticeships and community engagement from tech firms is vital to delivering the skills needed
to make Britain a global tech leader, according to Lesley Cowley, the CEO of Nominet, the internet
registry for .uk domain names.
USA STEM Students (August 2013): Nearly 28% of high school freshmen declare interest in a STEM-
related field - around 1,000,000 students each year. Of these students, over 57% will lose interest in
STEM by the time they graduate from high school.