The IT skills crunch has affected Australian government for some time, with the private sector able to be more flexible and agile in adapting job descriptions and remunerations to suit market needs. International pressures have not helped, with many of Australia's top people drawn overseas due to the challenges and financial opportunities.
Now that private organisations around the world are feeling the financial pinch, there is the opportunity for the public sector to reinvent itself as a stable and reliable employer, emphasising the value of stable jobs within a less stable global economy.
This would have the following benefits for the Australian public,
- Accelerate the development of egovernment services and infrastructure that would provide lasting support to the community.
- Beef up the government's capacity in service delivery at a time when access to government services are becoming more critical for the welfare of many Australian citizens and businesses.
- Keep skilled people productively employed within Australia, rather than potentially losing them over time to other countries as they recover from the crisis.
- Keep money flowing in the Australian (digital) economy - well designed large IT infrastructure projects could have economic flow-ons in similar ways to moderate sized physical infrastructure projects.
There are also direct benefits for the APS,
- Address the current skills shortage issues by draw from a larger pool of skilled people who have abruptly become available in the market.
- Assist the process of updating and improving the capacity of the public sector in the IT space, transferring skills that can be kept once projects ends and many of these skilled people transition back into the private sector (when the economic crisis ends).
- Supports the need for government agencies to transition to a new level of egovernment service delivery and better IT systems (many of which remain firmly rooted in the last century).
- Support the recommendation in the Gershon review to shift public sector IT workforces towards more permanent APS staff (less contractors) due to people seeking stability in an uncertain climate.
It does require government to move quickly to resource key government agencies to expand their capabilities. This kind of agility has been difficult for government in the past without clear political leadership.
Most of the above benefits for government recruitment stretch beyond egovernment to other aspects of public sector service provision. If we can draw in the skilled people looking for stability and ensure that government provides a positive employment experience, we can build lasting capacity across the public sector.
What do others think - should government be growing in a time of recession?