Michelle Norris: Hello everybody, my name is Michelle Norris, I’m the director of the ict entry level programs in the Australian Government Information Management Office

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Michelle Norris: Hello everybody, my name is Michelle Norris, I’m the director of the ICT entry level programs in the Australian Government Information Management Office. And for the last seven years we’ve been very successfully running the ICT entry level programs that consist of an ICT apprenticeship and an ICT cadetship program and the aims of those programs are really about building the ICT capability at the Australian Government. And over the last seven years we’ve seen hundreds of apprentices and cadets come through that program and around 150 have subsequently graduated and we still have around 200 who are currently moving through their programs at the moment.

But while we’ve been managing those programs, anecdotally we’ve heard from agencies that they’ve really struggled to attract IT graduates into their departments. And really it’s no surprise that that’s the case, because what we have with ICT is what could be described as the perfect storm. So not only do we have an incredible decline in the number of IT enrolments at university, over 50% in the last 10 years, we also have IT as the highest level of “occupational wastage”, that’s a term DEEWR uses, where people who’ve finished their degree actually go into totally different occupations. Now you couple that with an incredible increase in demand for ICT employees, particularly skilled ICT employees, and there’s your perfect storm.

So one of the ways that agencies try to address that is – and your agency may be in this boat – is to try and attract IT graduates through their generalist programs. Now if they do that, usually one of three things happens. The first is that IT graduates simply don’t apply, an ICT graduate may not see a direct relevance between the degree they’ve studied, their skills and experiences, and the work of a department with a very specific focus, such as the Department of Health for example. But obviously those agencies, although they might be focused on other areas, need IT staff. So they may not apply in the first place.

But secondly, if they do apply they can really struggle, IT graduates can struggle to, I guess, stand up against some of the IT generalist applicants. And I am being very generalist here, but if you imagine an IT graduate competing for a position on a graduate program with the head of the university debating team where our assessment centres are really focused on presentation skills and are really built for extroverts, sometimes the IT graduate may not make the cut. But thirdly, if they do get offered a position and they enter a graduate generalist program, they then are faced with a program that is not focused on IT. They may have to have rotations in policy, in HR, in program delivery, and they’re not actually doing the work that they studied for the last three or four years to do. So attracting and then retaining IT graduates has become a real issue for most agencies.

So that’s where we have now developed a pilot IT graduate program for all Australian government agencies and that pilot started this year with 21 graduates across nine different Australian government agencies. Now, in terms of its structure, the Australian Government IT Graduate Program looks very much like most graduate programs in agencies. It’s around 10 months in duration and it has a very structured learning and development program, but there are some significant points of difference with this program.

The first point of difference is the collaboration, and I really think this is going to be one of the most successful elements of this program. So, we’re collaborating with the Australian Public Service Commission through the development of the graduate development program, with the Canberra Institute of Technology and also with the Australian Computer Society. So our graduates are going to do a Diploma of Government with the APSC, but it’s a tailored Diploma of Government. It’s going to include a major IT project that they will work on throughout their year; they will have two IT electives that will be delivered by the Canberra Institute of Technology; and throughout their year, as much as possible, the examples and the frameworks provided will have a really strong IT focus. So they’ll kind of know why they’re there and see the correlation between the work that they’re doing and what they’re studying.

Now in addition to that, one thing that we have learned over the years, and particularly through the surveys that were undertaken as part of the ICT workforce plan, is that IT employees want a really strong sense of IT professionalism. So we’ve built this program to provide that. So in collaboration with the Australian Computer Society we’re giving our graduates membership of the ACS, they’ll also undertake a couple of masterclass series with the ACS and they’ll have the opportunity to attend a large number of ACS networking events. So we really hope that they get that sense of professionalism throughout the year. Now in addition to that, because we run the IT entry level programs, for us they are part of a much broader Australian government cohort of ICT employees, so they’ll also have the opportunity to meet and network with our apprentices and our cadets twice throughout their year, so we hope that that will help form some of the networks that will be really vital for their career.

So, as I mentioned, we’ve got 21 graduates who started about two weeks ago. Despite only fairly limited marketing of our program, we had over 320 applicants that came through to an assessment centre in Canberra and our graduates are based from five different states and territories and, as I mentioned, working across nine different government agencies. So we’ll be watching this cohort very closely of course, but while we’re doing that we’re also gearing up now to market our 2014 IT graduate program.

So some key dates for you if you’re interested:

  • On the 14th of March we’ll be holding an agency information session about the upcoming graduate program for 2014. We’ll send invitations through CIOs and we’ll also use some of the other networks that we have available to us, but we certainly hope that for agencies who have some interest in the graduate program or indeed the apprenticeship and cadetship program, that you’re able to attend on the 14th.

  • Our applications for our 2014 program will open on the 25th of March and they will be open for a month and closing on the 29th of April.

  • And the key date, the “drop dead date” as we like to call it, which is the date we need agencies’ commitment and final numbers is the 22nd of April.

So I hope that you will be able to come to the agency information session. If you’d like some more information about the program, a bit more of the detail, I’m more than happy to talk to you at the end in the Q&A session, but we’ve also got some printed material if anyone would like some. So thank you.
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