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Push for contractors to fast track qualifications

Date

Sylvia Pennington

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Back to class ... ICT contractors are being urged to turn their technical skills into formal qualifications.

Back to class ... ICT contractors are being urged to turn their technical skills into formal qualifications. Photo: Gabriele Charotte

The recruitment sector is pushing technology contractors with technical skills but no formal qualifications to make themselves more marketable by undertaking fast-track diplomas which give credit for experience in the workplace.

The IT Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA), training provider ProLearn and Holmesglen TAFE this week launched a free pilot program for 15 Melbourne contractors, who will complete diplomas of IT networking over the next three months.

Participants will be assessed and granted credit for existing skills and their training will be delivered flexibly to enable them to work and study concurrently. The pilot course will focus on project management, information and communication technology (ICT) practices and business requirements, network security and virtualisation.

Contractors comprise around 40 per cent of Australia's 220,000 strong ICT workforce, according to research from Peoplebank, one of the country's largest technology recruiters.

Industry sources estimate that between 30 and 50 per cent of this group have no tertiary qualifications in the area. Some have completed certification courses from major vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco while others have picked up their technical skills and management nous on the job.

If well received, ITCRA hopes to push the training scheme out to contractors in other states and will use government subsidies and industry sponsorship to keep costs as low as possible.

Market value of the diploma is between $5000 and $6000, with an out-of-pocket cost of around $900 for participants who are eligible for state and federal government subsidies for workers who lack qualifications in their field. ITCRA superannuation partner OAMPS is picking up the tab for the gap on the pilot project.

ITCRA chief executive Julie Mills said the scheme would look to boost skills in areas of the market where the Association's SkillsMatch research index indicated there was a shortage.

Lacklustre market conditions notwithstanding, recruiters were taking up to six weeks to fill some positions and the sector wanted to be more proactive about helping contractors improve their employability, Mills said.

Skills shortages have been something of a political football in the sector in recent times. Job-seeking ICT professionals deny shortages exist while employers have sought to plug the gaps by hiring thousands of overseas ICT professionals on 457 temporary visas each year.

ProLearn business development manager Janine Harris said many unqualified ICT practitioners had significant gaps in their knowledge base and might struggle to find an equivalent position, should their current roles disappear.

Ongoing training and professional development have historically taken a backseat for many in the sector. Employers are rarely willing to foot the bill for workers who might walk at the end of the week, while contractors themselves are often loathe to incur the double whammy of time out and the high cost of vocational courses.

As the contract jobs market continues to limp along, applicants who can tick all the boxes and have a piece of paper to prove it may have the jump on their unqualified competitors.

Peoplebank chief executive Peter Acheson said employers were increasingly demanding candidates have certifications and formal qualifications, as well as on-the-job experience. Those who were willing to invest time and money in their own training would have the jump on the remainder, he said.

“In the current environment, we're recommending to people that they take the time to go and do some sort of course to enhance their market value,” Acheson said.

“It all talks to their ability to do the job … it helps to de-risk the hiring decision for companies."

Are you a learn-on-the-job ICT professional? Do formal qualifications make a difference when you're looking for a new gig, or are they scarcely worth the paper they're printed on?

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28 comments

  • Having been an IT contractor now since '95, here and in NZ and London, I think a degree is still handy to have for that role in Finance, but you have to question the relevence of my IT and business degree that I obtained back in the 80's - I clearly remember a lecturer saying that no-one could topple IBM from their place as #1 in the IT Industry!

    I am constantly upskilling, if not at work, then outside work. Certifications such as ITIL and some Project Management certs along with relevent skillset certs (Microsoft for me) help you to stand out and demonstrate that you actually do know what you are claiming to be able to do.

    Commenter
    Dave
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    August 31, 2012, 10:43AM
    • Here we go again.. I've been in the industry for 14 years, and I can tell you straight up that diplomas and degrees make no difference in IT.. Experience and a drive to keep up with new and emerging technologies, as well as a desire to continue to improve is far more important. IT is a moving target, and this push for diplomas is going to do nothing with helping people keep up.

      Commenter
      Ed
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 11:02AM
      • totally agree with Ed.
        Good post mate.

        Commenter
        clint
        Location
        sydney
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 11:28AM
      • It will help all those so-called training companies put more bums on seats as the 457 rort is scaled back.....

        Commenter
        Tory Boy
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 12:34PM
      • So true Ed - 15 years in the industry with no degree - just an attitude to get the work done. Just means more people that think they don't have to do something because they have a degree.

        Commenter
        ChrisCB
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 5:47PM
      • Unfortunately, most of you who think a degree is worthless in IT is very short sighted. It's not what you study in university but what skills you pick-up. If you've not noticed, most of the high-flyers in IT careers who earn the buckets of money in corporate jobs are highly educated professionals who are both educated and passionate with the technology they work with.

        Commenter
        GT
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        August 31, 2012, 9:55PM
      • GT - Melbourne.. this is the exact issue. People who still think that university is the be all and end all.. In our industry, its a great start. University teaches useful skills, teaches how to learn, how to study and all that. It's also great for getting that first job.

        Unfortunately, within a year or two, all bets are off. I'd pick a developer with no formal qualifications and a few years of experience over a uni grad any day if they showed more passion and drive for technology. There is a huge difference between the "theoretical" world taught at uni, and the real world where products need to be delivered.

        Bringing this back to the article, recruitment companies are only pushing for these qualifications to make their life easier. They want a world where they can just tick boxes and match like for like without a need to understand the technologies/acronyms involved.

        Agencies wouldn't stand a chance if the government hadn't signed the free trade agreement many years ago. At it's root, the fair trade agreements allowed anybody to apply for a tender, including people from the US. This isn't a problem except that a full tender can take several months/years. To speed this process up, the government introduced "panel" arrangements, allowing them to run smaller tenders through preferred suppliers.. Unfortunately, the only people who can apply for these panels are agencies/large businesses. This leaves small companies and individual consultants with no options but to work with recruitment agencies. It's a no win situation for both the government agencies who end up paying more, and the consultants who receive less.

        If you really want this situation changed, find a friendly politician to lobby who is interested in government cost savings, while not being anti-contractor.. good luck.

        Commenter
        Ed
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        September 03, 2012, 11:24AM
    • Hmmmm, my heart bleeds for the "doing it tough" recruitment agencies trying to exploit more out of the customer.

      Lets be honest Recruitment Agencies are nothing more than parasites leaching off someone elses skills and trying to charge the customer more.

      Commissions paid to agencies should be capped at no more than 5% per hour and as for the 8-15% they demand for permanent placements, this is nothing more than highway robbery!.

      They provide little in the way of value to the customer and no real benefit to the contractor. They do nothing other than make a few phone calls and arrange an interview or 2.

      This article is hilarious, agencies are only out for themselves and their greedy partners.

      If you are really serious about developing IT and other skills in this country, spend your own money and take some kids off the street and train them yourselves and find them jobs. Take some kids out of the country and give them a career. Give something back for a change.

      I have always invested in my own skills and training, only because I was able to do so.

      Time for the agencies to stop their hypocracy and give something back to the community rather than the take, take take attitude and culture that exists today..........

      Commenter
      Ace
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 11:31AM
      • I concur wholly with this statement.

        IT recruiters are basically car yard salesmen with pointier shoes. Whats with the suits? Have they not noticed IT is generally casual?

        IT recruitment: if you have no other skills.

        Commenter
        Feuerbach
        Date and time
        September 02, 2012, 11:54AM
    • Do doctors and health need to continuously update themselves on new alien bodies? No!
      Do finance practitioners, accountants, banking, etc need to continuously update themselves on new finance systems? No!
      Do legal practitioners need to continuously update themselves on new legal systems from other countries? No!

      I am absolutely certain that ICT industry is full of CONTINUOUS innovation coming from the dominant silicon valleys (other than Australia). ICT professional (assuming s/he has a degree) one can not raise a family and update their skill continuously at the same time. This is an impossible way of existing.

      The best my old company could do was:
      a) Learn on the job (from someone?) and then eventually no one knew how to do the job. So we had the teams of incompetence for no fault of their own.
      b) Can not spend money on learning knowing 'we are not sure what we might need in future'.
      c) Outside the 38 hrs + crisis management hours, where is the time left for updating oneself? So the company had flexible arrangements to attend to family needs.

      It is all good to work and meet project deadlines but not conducive to TICK all BOXES in recruitment agent's list from dominant silicon valleys.

      Commenter
      Tarzan
      Location
      NSW
      Date and time
      August 31, 2012, 12:17PM

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