The Federal Government has launched a new education initiative aimed at helping students in years 5 to 10 pursue a career in the information and communications (ICT) sector.

Federal Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, announced $6.5 million in funding over four years to deliver the Digital Careers program.

“Our children are digital natives. ICT is shaping every aspect of their lives – the way they connect, learn and play. Despite this, too few young Australians are choosing ICT careers,” Senator Conroy said.

“As the digital economy grows, Australia faces a widening gap between the demand for ICT skills and the supply of qualified workers. We need to change that.

“The National Broadband Network is delivering a world class communications system to Australia, but it is only a platform - it’s what you do with it that really matters.  That’s why having a workforce with the right skills is so important.

“Through the Digital Careers program, we hope to increase enrolments in ICT courses at all levels of our education system.  We want to ensure that more of our best and brightest go on to enjoy careers in one of the most exciting, dynamic parts of our economy.

The Digital Careers program will be rolled out by NICTA, and will initially expand the highly successful Queensland pilot, Group X, into New South Wales and the ACT. Over time, all interested states and territories are expected to become involved. This Group X program has already led to a significant increase in the number of Queensland school students pursuing tertiary studies in ICT.

Professor Simon Kaplan of NICTA, who led the Group X program, said Australia needed to establish a critical mass of imaginative, creative, ICT-literate graduates to be internationally competitive.