A skills shortage in the IT sector should be eased by facilitating overseas professions to emigrate to Australia, leading recruiters say.

Skills shortages and the need for more skilled workers to fill IT jobs could delay major projects such as the national broadband network, and the restriction on the number of skilled IT workers from overseas should be reviewed, recruiters say.

Australia’s largest IT and technology recruiter, Peoplebank, last year signed an agreement with the federal government that allows them to recruit 150 to 200 overseas nationals annually, and has increased its intake of overseas IT professionals by about 20-30 per cent in the past six months.

Peoplebank acting chief executive Jeff Knowles said the company will ask for a further increase on that number, and predicts a skills shortage by the middle of this year in NSW, Victoria and Canberra if more workers cannot be found.

In Sydney there had been an increase of about 30 per cent in demand in January-February over the same time last year, with demand driven by large projects in banking, finance and utilities. 

“Every month there is an increase in opportunities that are available, so therefore there is the same increase in the need for niche people from overseas,” Mr Knowles said.

“There is a recognition that certain skill sets just can’t be found in Australia. For example, there are certain SAP projects that simply the skills are not here. They have just never been done before in Australia. So they are coming out of Europe.”

Recruiters are finding it difficult to find technical specialist people like Java developers, .NET developers, those with a specialisation in visualisation storage, voice and data, and SAP.

The most commonly used program for employers to sponsor overseas workers to move to Australia is the Subclass 457 Skilled Temporary Business (Long Stay), and the Australian Department of Immigration has been urged by recruiters to review the number of sponsored 457 visas granted with a view to increase the number available.

Australian immigration figures show 1500 computing professionals were granted 457 visas in the year to February 28, down from 2810 in the year to February 28 last year.

Computing professional was ranked second out of the top 15 occupations for primary applications granted in the year to the end of February, down from number one the previous year.

Thanks to the Visa Bureau for this article.