Westpac has announced plans to expand its graduate intake, hire more women and recruit technology cadets directly from school, in a bid to build high-tech skills from the ground up.
From next year, annual information and communications technology (ICT) graduate intake numbers will rise from 15 to 20 and half of those hired will be women, according to Westpac CIO Clive Whincup.
Cadets will spend half the year at the bank and the other half doing formal study.
One of the country's largest ICT employers, Westpac has 3000 technology staff and around the same number again employed indirectly via partners and outsourcing arrangements.
Along with other financial institutions, the bank has drawn fire from technology workers in the past for exporting large tranches of work.
Around 150 ICT jobs were lost to offshoring early last year, although local staff recorded a win shortly afterwards when Westpac-owned St George Bank reneged on a plan to outsource a further 200 roles to IBM.
Whincup said the bank did not plan to outsource significant amounts of work, beyond what had already been sent offshore, and was focused on building skills in-house.
The prevailing message of the last decade had been "Aussie jobs going offshore", yet the total number of ICT jobs in the country had increased during that period, Whincup said.
Companies would continue to tap offshore resources where necessary but this should not deter young Australians from pursuing a future in the sector, he said.
Westpac offered a long-haul career path for recruits and was committed to hiring as many women as possible, despite the well documented dearth of female tech graduates, he added.
Industry, government and universities have expressed concern about the plummeting number of students undertaking ICT studies over the past decade and a corresponding drop in their academic calibre.
Figures from the Australian Computer Society last year showed the number of students graduating from ICT courses had sunk from 9093 in 2003 to an expected 4547 in 2012.
The perception that opportunities have been decimated and local wages suppressed by outsourcing and offshoring has been blamed for the decline.
Head of the Australian Information Industry Association, Suzanne Campbell, said there was increasing understanding across the sector that the Australian skills position was "not excellent".
Unlike other professions, such as law and accounting, technology does not offer graduates a defined career path and many young people struggle to get their first job.
"The challenge for students and their parents is there's no single place to get a perspective on 'what the opportunities are for my child'," Campbell said.
Individual companies like Westpac were showing initiative in creating opportunities and championing ICT as a career path, she added.
Simon Kaplan, the former science and technology dean who heads NICTA's initiative to herd more school leavers down the high-tech path, also applauded Westpac's stance.
"It sends a strong message of confidence to potential students about the availability of career paths," Kaplan said.
"We hope many other companies will look at that and draw inspiration. It's a lot of work to run a graduate program ... it's fantastic to see companies taking a long view."