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Who will build NSW’s ICT of tomorrow?


New South Wales agencies will need access to more strategic, high-value ICT skills over the next five years, the state’s 2016 Public Service Commission report shows. The trend is expected to be followed in other jurisdictions, bringing sweeping changes to the ICT labour hire market in Australia.

According to the report, ten agencies undertook a functional capability assessment based on the ICT Capability Framework, and revealed “that the required ICT skills are becoming more complex and strategic, and this is reflected in the volume of higher graded roles and diverse skill sets in demand.”

“This means that while certain roles may be disrupted or changed in technology services and technology/application building domains, other roles in project management, cyber security, data analysis and service architecture will grow, either in volume or in the capability complexity required,” stated the report. The breakdown of the 5-year forecast is shown below:

An increasingly modular approach to ICT projects and service delivery innovation are the likely drivers of this trend. With the state’s ICT procurement practices evolving to “reflect broader market shifts towards as-a-service and cloud services”, a decline in demand for operational technology services and a corresponding increase for more complex enterprise governance skills is expected.

The changing trend is also indicative of NSW’s digital maturity. According to Intermedium’s June 2017 iteration of the Digital Government Readiness Indicator (DGRI), NSW remains a clear leader in the country in its preparedness to deliver digital government services to its citizens, and is thus far the only jurisdiction to be regarded as being “Digital Government Ready”. The state’s adoption of technology to provide seamless, efficient services has seen an emerging capability gap in the state’s public sector to manage increasingly complex and sophisticated ICT projects.

The surge in NSW’s expenditure on ICT contingent labour in the past six years evidences the growing internal capability gap. According to an audit released by NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford in April 2017, total spending on ICT contingent workers by the NSW Government jumped from approximately $250 million in 2010-11 to over $500 million in 2015-16, with growth increasing steadily every year.

The audit shows that the upwards trend in ICT labour hire in NSW correlates with increased spending on new ICT projects. The size of the Transport cluster’s temporary workforce, for instance, which accounted for 34.2 per cent of the entire NSW Government’s contingent labour spending in 2015-16, reflected the unprecedented number of major infrastructure projects and legacy ICT system upgrades taking place within the cluster, according to the Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW) Secretary Tim Reardon.

The rise in contingency labour hires was also noted in the Public Service Commission report, which observed that “between 4–20% of roles are being filled by contingent labour, with nearly half of these roles related to short-term requirements (such as the enterprise planning system rollouts), and 37% for a long-term need not currently being met.” The latter demonstrates the internal skills shortage driving these labour market trends.

The contingent labour hire growth is being matched in other jurisdictions where there is also high ICT project activity, including in the federal government, Intermedium’s contracting data reveals. This signals that other jurisdictions are likely to see a similar increase in demand for more complex ICT skills as they approach NSW’s level of digital maturity, boosting the competitiveness of the ICT labour hire market across the economy. 

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