High school students from across Sydney learned about pathways into an ICT career at the latest The Big Day In.

More than 2,000 students filled the Great Hall at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) across two days, to hear from a variety of industry professionals on how to turn their tech interest into a career.

There was also a significant push to encourage young girls to consider a career in technology this year, with 40% female attendees each day.

Opening proceedings on both days was ACS’ CEO, Andrew Johnson, who told the audience of the current industry demand for workers.

“When we start to talk about careers we often hear advice around pursuing law and accountancy,” he said.

“Deloitte Access Economics has forecast a shortfall of 81,000 technology workers here in Australia needed by 2022 – and that’s against a backdrop of 8,000 IT graduates.

“Wherever you’ve got a big mismatch between supply and demand, that means higher wages.”

NSW Minister for Education, Rob Stokes, also attended the event and advised the students on how they can turn a passion into a career.

“Think about what it is you really want to do based on the skills you have, based on the talents you have, based on the interests you have,” he said.

“Can I urge you today to not just to think of things you might be interested in doing, but also match that together with a need you might see in society.

“Try to match the things that you learn here with needs in society.”

Creating opportunities

Now in its seventh year, The Big Day In brings together business leaders from some of the top tech companies around the country with high school students who have an interest in a future career in tech.

The UTS event saw speakers from Adobe, SMB Consultants, Westpac, TechnologyOne, Optus Business, Micro Focus, BT Financial Group, the Federal Government, Tradie Pad, Animal Logic, Microsoft and JAR Aerospace.

Also speaking on day two of the event was Richard White from WiseTech Global, who told the story of his company’s journey from a basement project to a $3 billion global business.

"One of the things we decided to do early was ‘stick to the knitting'," White said.

“We decided to do one thing really, really, really well and focus on that and only that, and become really good at it.

“Every moment we could, we slightly expanded our capability and grew a bit bigger, either geographically or in depth.

“Eventually we became so good at it that we became a world leader.”

In its position as a leader, WiseTech Global can now play a hands-on role in creating the future workforce.

A graduate program is run alongside internship opportunities and school holiday programs for high school children.

Teigan Penna joined WiseTech in 2013 as a high school student after he heard from White at a Big Day In event.

He was taken on as student developer, which allowed him to code in a professional environment in his school holidays.

“I lived in rural Sydney; there wasn’t any type of tech classes in primary school, there were a couple of computers in the library – it wasn’t a possible career in my eyes,” he said.

Upon starting high school, Penna began his first IT classes and soon developed a passion.

“I wanted some work experience, so I went to Big Day In in 2013 and met Richard (White) and said ‘can I do some work experience?’”

“He said ‘we’ll pay you in your holidays if you come and work with us and write some code’, which was way better than just looking over someone’s shoulder.

“Now I’m in university and I’m doing an IT degree here at UTS and my subjects are easier because of the amount of experience I have in IT.

“I think it’s really something that is achievable for anyone in this audience who has a passion for IT and wants to do something with their spare time now, because it is available now.”