The Department of Human Services is looking to employ more than 100 STEM graduates to assist with its wide-ranging IT efforts that include projects at the centre of much recent controversy.
The grads will be thrown straight into the deep end, with intense scrutiny on the department’s use of automated computer systems to issue Centrelink debt repayment notices still continuing.
DHS has opened its recruitment round for its 2017 STEM graduate process, with the department planning to hire up to 125 graduates in Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane. Its IT operations currently employ about 3000 people, and receives nearly $1 billion in funding each year.
The DHS in-house IT team is one of the largest in the southern hemisphere, overseeing the delivery of $172 billion in payments annually across Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support.
But the department has found itself in the middle of a series of tech failures and controversy, most publicly in the case of Centrelink.
The department oversaw the implementation of Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system, which cross-checks information provided to the ATO with that provided by welfare recipients, and then automatically issues a recover letter where a discrepancy is found.
The robo-debt system has been widely criticised for miscalculating debts, and for sending notices to welfare recipients who don’t actually owe anything.
The system is the subject of a Senate inquiry, which has been that its use has created a “climate of fear” in Australia.
“What this system has done is create a climate where people have been frightened, indeed people have been bullied, into complying. The impact of this robo-debt system has been to cause extensive distress and suffering right across the community,” CPSU secretary Nadine Flood told the inquiry last month.
The DHS IT department also oversees the MyGov online portal, which itself is currently under review by the Australian National Audit Office. The investigation is centred on the implementation and performance of this portal, and is expected to return its findings in the coming months.
The grads will be working on the biggest IT project in Australia right now, the $1.5 billion replacement of Centrelink’s payment system currently underway.
DHS chief information security officer Narelle Devine said the grad program offers a chance to make a difference.
“What sets us apart is that our work touches the lives of nearly all Australians at some point, and we have the opportunity to make a real difference for people. Graduates will gain valuable, hands-on exposure of the department’s operations,” Ms Devine said in a statement.
Successful applicants receive a starting salary of nearly $70,000 per annum, with a range of full-time positions on offer at the end of the six-month program.
This year’s program is also looking especially to hire more young women, Ms Devine said.
“Cyber security, and IT more generally, is often perceived as being a male-dominated industry, but the department’s modern workplace culture provides great opportunities for anyone who is passionate about technology,” she said.
“The massive scale of our IT systems, exposure to diverse technologies and access to world class training and development make DHS an excellent starting point for a rewarding ICT career,” she said.
“I strongly encourage STEM graduates, particularly young women, to consider applying.”
Applications are open until the end of the month, and while the form does not include anything about having a thick skin, it may be needed given the public anger that has been thrown at the DHS’ tech movements of late.
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