NZ economy risk as IT graduate numbers fall

The New Zealand Herald says “The number of tertiary graduates coming out of information technology (IT) courses has halved over the past four years and technology businesses are scratching to fill roles.”

The reporter quotes John Hosking, professor of computer science at the University of Auckland, saying, “because IT was utterly pervasive in business the whole economic infrastructure was at risk”.

New Zealand’s entire economic infrastructure?

The farmers, the wool growers, the vineyards, miners and tourism operators?

If things were that bad, you’d think employers might do something about it, like offer tech workers more money. You might think they’d spend money training people to fill the gap. You might even expect more prospective employers to finance scholarships for computer science undergraduates, offer them vacation work and get them on contracts as early as possible.

According to US news reports, America is busily laying-off IT workers. I’m sure many would be willing to pay their own way to New Zealand if the opportunities are that good.

And while we’re on the subject, trade publications like ComputerWorld New Zealand aren’t exactly full of situations vacant advertisements.

While industry may be doing a few things to correct the imbalance, in practice you don’t see as much evidence of panic as you might expect if the entire nation’s infrastructure was at risk.

New Zealand technology sector wages are not high by world standards. They are not even high by regional standards. Probably not even high enough to lure laid-off US tech workers contemplating a career-switch to fast food retailling.

Nor do New Zealand computer science students seem to have as many scholarship opportunities as counterparts in Australia and elsewhere.

If Professor Hosking is right about the threat to our entire economic infrastructure, the law of supply and demand isn’t in operation in New Zealand’s IT recruitment sector.