Go8 unis seek IT skills fixes for national summit

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Leaders from Australia’s tech and university sectors will meet in Melbourne on Friday for an urgent discussion on developing Australia’s information technology workforce ahead of next week’s national jobs and skills summit.

Led by the Group of Eight (Go8) universities, the two-hour summit is expected to cover current and future workforce needs as well as the impact of emerging technologies on this workforce, with input sought on universities’ role in developing more skilled information and communications technology (ICT) workers.

A summary of the summit findings will be compiled for Industry and Science minister Ed Husic to take to next week’s invitation-only national Jobs and Skills Summit.

Go8 chief executive officer Vicki Thomson

On Friday at Melbourne’s Monash University, senior professors and some vice chancellors from each of the eight research focused universities will be joined by executives from big businesses like Google, IBM Telstra, Oracle, Deloitte, Accenture and defence giants Lockheed Martin and Raytheon among others.

The Business Council of Australian, Ai group and the Australian Computer Society will also attend, as will the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, and Science and Technology Australia. The tertiary education union is not on the guestlist, however.

Many of the participants have already participated in Mr Husic’s earlier skills roundtables, which ranged from digital technology to science commercialisation. But the Melbourne event has a specific focus on the ICT workforce and the role universities can play in developing it.

The summit aims to address one part of the IT and computing workforce pipeline – education and research training in Australia’s university sector. Additional analysis on the IT workforce and skilled migration will not be up for major discussion at the event.

“The Summit will seek to identify broad-based solutions to issues and barriers industry is experiencing in accessing this university educated innovative workforce, now and into the future,” a discussion paper or the summit says.

Over two sessions, participants will discuss Australia’s current and future IT and computing workforce needs, and future opportunities with new and emerging technologies.

The university sector is an obvious part of the solution to Australia’s skills challenge but faces its own challenges in reduced STEM funding and a lack of highly qualified researcher and teachers in the areas deemed critical to Australia like AI, machine learning and cybersecurity.

Go8 chief executive Vick Thomson told InnovationAus.com the summit and its findings are needed to adapt the university sector to the shock of the pandemic and the changing nature of work. She said there is now unprecedented demand for a high skilled IT enabled workforce.

“We can all agree that there is a desperate shortage of IT professionals now, and that sustainable development of our economy and society requires exponential growth in future supply. This supply will need to be met from several sources,” she said.

The research and technology focused Go8 universities — the University of Adelaide, the Australian National University, the University of Melbourne, Monash University, UNSW Sydney, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and the University of Western Australia – are well placed to deliver the changing workforce, Ms Thomson said.

“Our focus, as the universities which educate 42 per cent of Engineering and 23 per cent of ICT students is very much on ensuring there is a strong, reliable long-term supply of information technology and computing graduates for roles that are increasingly high-value, high wage and will not be addressed solely by VET.

“The role of research is also critical in underpinning the education of our students.”

The attendance list for the Group of Eight Industry Summit – Securing the future of Australia’s IT Workforce is:

Name Role Organisation
 Natasha Abrahams Policy Manager Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering
Professor David Abramson President, Computing Research and Education Association of Australasia Director, Research Computing Centre, University of Queensland
Professor Uwe Aickelin Head Of School, Computing And Information Systems Engineering and IT University of Melbourne
Jason Bamert Head, Education and Healthcare Industries Optus
Professor Peter Bartlett Co-Lead Google Research Australia
Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell AO Director, School of Cybernetics, Director, Autonomy, Agency & Assurance (3A) Institute Australian National University
Dr Matthew Brown Deputy Chief Executive Group of Eight
Professor Michael Bruenig Head of School, School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering University of Queensland
Assoc. Professor Rachel Cardell-Oliver Head, Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering University of Western Australia
Iyari Cevallos Chair Women in Technology
Ben Chartier Head of Product Development MaxMine
Dr Philip Chindamo Chief Economist Group of Eight
Dr Grace Chung Co-Lead Google Research Australia
Dr Cristina Cifuentes Senior Director, Research & Development Oracle Labs Australia
Tenielle Colussi Managing Director, ANZ Human Potential (Future of Work, HR, Newskilling, Change Transformation) Lead Accenture Strategy & Consulting, ANZ
Dr Brenton Cooper Chief Executive Officer & Director Fivecast
Dr James Curran Chief Executive Officer Grok Academy
Steve Davies Partner, Client Innovation Centres Australia & New Zealand IBM Australia
Peter Derbyshire Policy Director Australian Academy of Technology & Engineering
Michael Edwards Chief of Technology Raytheon Australia
Stephen Elbourn Managing Director ITIC Systems
Nick Ellsmore Senior Vice President, Consulting and Professional Services Trustwave
Georgette Elston Head, Resourcing and Early Careers BAE Systems
Professor Margaret Gardner AC Chair, Group of Eight Board President & Vice-Chancellor, Monash University
Dr Joachim Gudmundsson Head of School, Computational Geometry, Data Structures, Approximation Algorithms, School of Computer Science University of Sydney
Professor Tony Hosking Director of the School of Computing, College of Engineering and Computer Science Australian National University
Professor Mark Hutchinson President, Science & Technology Australia Director, Centre for Nanoscale BioPhotonics, University of Adelaide
Bryn Jeffries Tertiary Product Manager Grok Academy
Megan Lilly Executive Director, Centre for Education and Training Ai Group


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