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ICT Trends: Update on the Skills Shortage

Garry Roberton, Senior Lecturer, Wintec. 22 August 2012, 2:06 pm
ICT Trends: Update on the Skills Shortage

"NZ Part of (Global) IT Skills Shortage Danger"

This headline in The NZ Herald on 12th July heralded the ministerial keynote at the NetHui internet conference delivered by Steven Joyce, Minister of Economic Development. He acknowledged the (apparent) current worldwide shortage of ICT skills and challenged everyone involved in the industry to evangelise ICT jobs/careers to students and families.

It's great to see that the Institute of IT Professionals (IITP) is making good progress down this track with the launch of their ICT outreach programme, ICT-Connect.

But, is there really a global ICT skills shortage? The overall scene is, at times, quite contrary with several recent contradictory headlines/articles, certainly at first glance. Let's look at it in more detail.

NZ ICT Candidates Plentiful?

A recent Computerworld article (NZ) headline "If you love them set them free" suggests that there are plenty of IT candidates in New Zealand.

According to Rod Macfarlane, co-founder of Macfarlane Engel & Associates (MEA), what is lacking for the app development industry, in particular, are skilled mobile developers with Java and Objective-C skills. So, skilled mobile developers are in demand (refer to the IITP Newsline May article for the tertiary response to meeting the demand for mobile apps developers).

The Dominion Post reports that Wellington's technology sector is being forced to employ staff from overseas, due to a lack of local talent (no surprise there!). According to the article there is a short supply of specialty skills, which includes Java developers, PHP developers, technical architects, mobile web developers, SQL database developers, SharePoint architects and .Net developers.

Prog/Developer Skills in Demand (NZ Seek ICT Job Ads July 2012)


DBA/Developer Skills in Demand (NZ Seek ICT Job Ads July 2012)


Overall, I'm firmly of the opinion that the ICT talent pipeline is producing just a fraction of the ICT qualified personnel needed in NZ, especially given the low number of tertiary enrolments, relative to a decade ago (refer to the IITP Newsline June article) and the steadily increasing adverts for ICT jobs.

The (UK) IT Skills Crisis is Over?

Two recent TechRepublic UK headlines typify what appears to be a series of contradictory statements in each article.

The first article 'IT skills crisis - is it over for good?' states that 'The vast majority of firms are neither struggling to secure the IT skills they need nor investing in training IT staff…..'.

However, a closer read reveals that a 2012 e-skills Technology Insights report predicts that the number of IT jobs will grow, in spite of the economic downturn, at nearly twice the rate of the national (UK) workforce. There will be 129,000 new entrants required to the IT and telecoms professions each year through to 2015. According to the e-skills CEO, Karen Price, it is vital that the industry continue to invest in technology skills and create new routes for young people to enter exciting and challenging ICT careers.

The second article 'IT skills crisis? How coding and cool can crack it' states that the UK IT skills crisis is less to do with the quantity of candidates and more to do with the quality of their skills (shades of the NZ Computerworld article).

The underlying concern, however, is about a shortage of young people interested in computer science. Finding ways to excite and interest them in a career involving the technologies that lie behind the cool stuff that they use every day appears to be the big challenge (NZ's answer to this conundrum - NZ Communications Minister Amy Adams congratulates the Institute of Information Technology Professionals (IITP) for raising $300,000 from 40 companies for their ICT-Connect programme).

So the short answer appears to be no, the (UK) IT skills crisis, especially in the long term, is far from over. The UK is facing the same problems that NZ; i.e. finding ways to increase the flow of young people into the ICT talent pipeline.

NZ Labour Market Improving?

Comparisons between the Seek ICT June advertised job vacancies and this Business Day article from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment highlights the latest (June) job vacancy statistics.

June compared to May:

  • Business Day - total online job vacancies fell by 4.5 per cent
  • Seek ICT -a small increase in online job vacancies

Seek ICT Job Ads to July 2012


Online Skilled Job Vacancy Statistics for the Year to June 2012


Ministry of Business (Innovation & Employment)

Seek ICT Job Ads

All New Zealand

7.5 per cent higher

7 per cent lower



Increased 4.9 per cent

Decreased 6 per cent


Increased 1.7 per cent

Decreased 10 per cent


Increased 20.5 per cent

Decreased 4 per cent

Change by Region for June - July (Seek ICT Job Ads) 


Total job adverts in July decreased by 1.6 per cent for the month, but are up 15.7 per cent on July 2010. The Seek ICT job trends series for 2012 is exhibiting some volatility month to month.

Salary Review(s)

The IT sector, according to Trademe jobs reported in the Dominion Post, is the most active area (field) in the Wellington job market. The AbsoluteIT Remuneration report states that the base median salary for Wellington is the highest for all regions at $80,000. Wellingtonians reportedly remain the highest-paid workers in New Zealand with an average salary of $76,412 for fulltime workers versus $73,307 in Auckland.

IT jobs had the highest salaries of all jobs listed on Trademe with IT architects paid more than $130,000, project managers paid almost $125,000 and IT managers paid more than $117,000.

Architects Top the AbsoluteIT Annual Salary Survey


Winners & Losers

Software architects and developers experienced salary increases while business analysts, technical writers, testers, systems administrators and web/multimedia designers all experienced salary decreases.

By way of comparison the median increase for all NZ jobs for the last two years was 3 per cent, according to Statistics New Zealand's labour cost index, as reported in the NZ Herald.

More information

Garry also produces a monthly report containing statistics and facts related to ICT enrolments and job trends which can be accessed on the CITRENZ web site.

Garry Roberton is a Senior Lecturer with the School of IT at Wintec and Executive Board Member and Fellow of CITRENZ.


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Stu Paulin 22 August 2012, 3:22 pm

Ironically the same Herald had a news story just last week that we'll all be out of a job in 3 years time, no need for IT people or Accountants apparently. If I was a school leaver thinking about ICT I'd worry about that misguided information and also the ever present 'bullying' feeling that if you ever succeed at anything in IT then some big corporate is going to sue your shirt off due to having a patent on the idea anyway. Should my kids get into ICT ... hmmm let me get back to you on that one.

Jan Wijninckx 22 August 2012, 3:56 pm

Indeed Stu. Plus the government has plans to shed 6000 staff in Wtn from the govt books in 3 years time I'm told. If ICT was so good why are the salaries so pathetic at the mo?! Supply and demand - 30% down. I for one am actively disouraging anyone to join this field. The good days are over, India will do it for us. There is no capital market to spawn industry, and local govt and others rather buy from overseas entities (see latest IRD tenders)

Paul Matthews 22 August 2012, 6:27 pm

Are you serious? ICT still remains the highest paid profession in New Zealand (eg see www.trademe.co.nz/jobs/sala...) and demand is up. I speak with employers on a daily basis and without fail, they tell me their biggest issue and limiting factor is the skills shortage - not being able to find staff.

Jan, the shortage is larger than it's ever been. There's a huge demand for ICT skills and that demand isn't dropping anytime soon (which is why ICT is so well paid generally).

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