Australian industry will continue to suffer shortages of work-ready ICT graduates if employers don’t invest more in the education process, according to the Australian Council of Deans of ICT.
Releasing the ‘Dean’s action plan for ICT skills’ this week, ACDICT president Professor Leon Sterling said it was not helpful for the industry to complain about shortages of work-ready graduates in ICT, or the number of graduates, if it was not prepared to be more involved in the education process.
Prof Sterling, who is head of Swinburne University’s ICT faculty, released the dean’s plan on the back of the Australian Workplace and Productivity Agency’s ICT Workforce Study 2013 launched a week ago. It is largely aligned with that AWPA report.
The ACDICT makes ten recommendations of its own, largely around changing perceptions among younger people about what an ICT career means, bolstering educational standards in the area, and improving industry engagement with tertiary institutions.
“To maximise our domestic ICT capability and address the skills shortage for the long-term, industry needs to be committed to, and to invest more in the education process before and after the moment of graduation,” Prof Sterling said in a statement.
That “investment” should extend to include much more industry engagement at schools and universities – including through internships and cadetship-style programs.
Among a raft of recommendations the deans make is a specific call for Government to fund the development of programs specifically aimed at improving ICT capabilities among secondary teachers. This should be done in the same way a STEM program had been established through the Office of The Chief Scientist.
“Whilst the Prime Minister (Julia Gillard in March) has described Information Technology jobs as the quintessential jobs of the future, the Government is yet to deliver programs and support specifically for improving ICT capabilities amongst secondary school teachers (parallel to those funded for mathematics and science teachers),” the dean’s report said.
It also supports the fundamental overhaul of K-12 curricula related to ICT and the teacher support mechanisms to make sure it has an impact.
Specifically, the deans say the current manifestation of ICT in schools is a primary reason why many students are turned off further study or careers in ICT. And a realignment should include a greater focus for all kids on the problem-solving skill of computational computing.
“All members of a modern society need to be digitally literate and many people need to be able to use computational thinking to solve the complex problems that are encountered in all forms of work,” the dean’s report says.
“The useful and necessary problem-solving skill of computational thinking (which usually involves programming) needs to be embedded in the study of all disciplines from an early age and not just seen as an esoteric part of computer science at university level.”
“The digital designers and creators of the future will emerge from an educational system that promotes and supports ICT creativity rather than from a system that merely teaches digital literacy of existing tools.”