Tata chief praises NBN, urges more IT industry skills

Alignment between university course work and real world skills required

Australia needs a national broadband network to drive innovation and compete on a global scale and universities aren’t doing enough real-world industry training of students. They are the views of Varun Kapur, the Australia and New Zealand general manager of Indian outsourcing giant Tata Consulting Services.

Kapur said today’s leading engineers are trying to avoid roadblocks and building a national broadband network for Australia would “remove a lot of barriers”.

“People will be able to work to drive innovation [and] regional parts of Australia will become brighter with broadband,” Kapur said.

“I’ve traveled from Sydney to Cairns and seen the small towns. What type of Internet access do remote communities have today? The NBN will produce a lot of creative ideas that people living in urban areas might not think of.”

TCS has about 140,000 staff in 50 countries. Kapur is an 18-year veteran of the organisation and came to Australia two years ago.

Speaking at the Australian Computer Society’s Young IT Professionals Conference in Sydney, Kapur cited analysis work done in Sydney for the IPL cricket tournament and Tata’s work with Qantas to enable online ticketing and check-ins for overseas destinations as examples of IT services globalisation.

Locally, Tata has recruited some 150 people in the past two years and hires graduates by building relationships and going to universities for internship programs.

“We need to look at the university curriculum [as] it needs to be more aligned with the needs of industry,” Kapur said, adding the talent is right, but in recent years the uptake of IT has been low and more agility is important.

“I’m not being critical of the universities, there just needs to be more alignment with industry.”

Tata also collaborates with the ACS to get access to the “finite amount of talent”.

“We run the Insight Program every year with the Smith Family to train high school students from under privileged backgrounds,” Kapur said. “We put them through our boot camp and with 17 students this year and I’m very proud of it.

“If you can catch them young you can lead them to IT. In fact about 70 per cent of the students consider IT as a career path.”

The ACS predicts a skills gap of 25,000 workers by 2020 and Kapur said: “As an industry, all of us have to do more.”