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Survey: Outsourcing may hit IT careers

More than 90 percent of Australian technology managers polled in a survey say they won't recommend IT as a career path if outsourcing continues to shrink the local job market.

The rampant outsourcing of information technology jobs could well sound the death knell of Australia's tech industry, an IT Manager Australia survey has revealed.

ITM members were asked if they would discourage students in Australia from considering IT as a career, if offshore outsourcing continued to shrink the local employment market.

More than 90 percent of members said, based upon current conditions, that they wouldn't recommend information technology as a viable career path.

"I'd rather my kids opt for nursing as a profession--it has both local and global demand," said ITM member James Michaels, who works for a telecommunications company in Sydney.

Michaels said there was a huge disconnect in the supply-and-demand chain. "I think we've reached a saturation point...there's just too many skilled techies out of work, and they're all fighting for either the same pie or the scraps left behind post-outsourcing," he said.

Occupational hazard
For some IT undergraduates, there's no turning back. "As a computer science student at Melbourne University, I can say it is almost guaranteed that students will shy away from IT as a career, without outsourcing legislation," ITM member Jesse Stratford said.

"My peers and I are very much aware of this (offshore outsourcing) situation and watching it with great interest, lest our expensive, hard-earned education be thrown out of the window for the sake of lining the pockets of big businesses," Stratford added.

According to market research firm Gartner, offshore business process outsourcing (BPO) is expected to reach $1.8 billion in 2003 on a global basis, representing a 38 percent increase from the previous year.

Gartner said India will represent 66 percent, or $1.2 billion, of the offshore BPO market. "Most of today's offshore BPO opportunities in India are relegated to contact centers and back-office transaction processing," said Sujay Chohan, a research vice president at Gartner.

But it's not all doom and gloom, as one member said: "We need to be careful not to confuse "offshore" development with round-the-clock surveillance," wrote ITM member Peter Hannan.

Hannan explained that, in many instances, it was logical to have service provisioning (network monitoring, for instance) overseas in a "follow the sun" arrangement--especially for multinational companies.

"Such arrangements generally provide commercial sense and have the byproduct of reciprocity for our talent pool," he added.

ZDNet Australia's Fran Foo reported from Sydney.