A program aimed at attracting and retaining young talent within the ICT industry will be rolled out on a national scale following the appointment of Karsten Schulz as national manager.

Called GroupX, the collaborative initiative features representatives from the Australian Information Industry Association, Australian Computer Society and professionals across education and government sectors. It will be funded through the government's Digital Careers Program.

This year, GroupX made 60 school visits and events involving 165 schools and 40,000 students across Queensland, NSW, ACT and Victoria. It will be working alongside numerous industry and university collaborators to promote a range of programs including RoboCup, Club KidPreneur, SAP Young ICT Explorers and the National Computer Science Summer School.

Schulz will focus on leading GroupX and encouraging involvement in activities that engage and hold student interest in ICT and promote improved ICT education in Australia at primary, secondary and tertiary levels.

"The development of programs for states and territories beyond Queensland is underway. We are also looking to inject additional resources into successful programs already in place that address the very real ICT skills shortage we are suffering," he said. Schulz joined NICTA in earlier this year as commercial manager in infrastructure, transport and logistics. He founded SAP's Young ICT Explorers and held senior roles at SAP across Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, and has seeded and started several research centres for the company in Australia, China, India and Singapore. "Karsten has a proven track record of working with young professionals in ICT and seeing them grow into the type of industry leaders Australia so badly needs," NICTA director of skills and industry transformation, Simon Kaplan, said.

Kaplan himself led the original GroupX program in Queensland, which contributed to a 50 per cent increase in ICT enrolments in the state. "If Australia fails to establish a critical mass of imaginative, creative, digitally-literate graduates, we will never be internationally competitive. There is no reason that we shouldn't have a vibrant, entrepreneurial digitally-enabled economy," he said.