ACS teams with deans to make ICT education sexy

Partnership to help show there's more to ICT than "fixing computers," says ACS President Nick Tate.

Nudging Australian students toward ICT careers is a major goal of a new partnership between the Australian Computer Society (ACS) and the Australian Council of Deans of Information and Communications Technology (ACDICT).

The partnership aims to connect ICT educators with industry leaders to better attract and engage students to the profession. It “sets forth terms for an ongoing cooperative and collaborative partnership based on a joint interest to identify Australia’s workforce development needs and to deliver benefits to ICT higher education,” ACS said.

Going forward, ACDICT will have input into reviews and updates to the ACS ICT core body of knowledge, an outline of knowledge requirements for ICT professionals.

“It’s an opportunity for us to give feedback to those doing ICT education” about what the ICT industry would like to see as part of degrees, ACS President Nick Tate told CIO Australia. Also, it enables education and industry to “work together on promoting ICT as a career.” The partnership also will support the ACS process for accrediting ICT courses, he said.

Tate hopes to turn around negative views of the ICT industry, he said. “There are lingering perceptions of ICT in the minds of parents and career advisors in schools” dating back to the IT economic bubble burst of the early 2000s, he said. As a result, these influencers do not suggest ICT as a career path, he said.

Adding to the problem is that ICT jobs are portrayed often as “not very exciting,” Tate said. Many in the general public don’t know about IT jobs other than the people who “fix your computer,” he said. “Chief information officers don’t spend a lot of time fixing computers.”

CIOs aren’t glamourised the same way as lawyers and medical professionals, who are “on television in endless programmes,” Tate said. “When do you remember the last TV show on ICT?” There was a British show, The IT Crowd, he said, but that “perhaps didn’t give an overwhelmingly positive impression.”

Case studies have been used successfully in Queensland schools to promote ICT as a profession, Tate said. The effort had a visible effect increasing enrolments in ICT courses, he said. Educating career advisors about available opportunities in ICT is another effective tactic, he said.

Meanwhile, the ACS Foundation has provided real-world experience to ICT students by playing matchmaker through year-long scholarships at ICT businesses. The foundation has been an active voice on ICT education challenges. Last month, it told the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority that the IT skills shortage threatened the national economy. The ACSF also shone a light on the ICT skills shortfall at a Canberra conference in March. The group has praised the NBN as a potential driver of ICT jobs.

ACDICT President Leon Sterling said Australia’s ICT skills shortage requires urgent attention. “There are more jobs in ICT that are important for innovation than there are skilled professionals to fill them,” he said in a statement. “What we have seen, over decades, has been a gradual deterioration in the attention that our education system pays to ICT skills.

“Computing concepts and ICT subjects deserve serious attention, along with mathematics and science,” Sterling said. “Getting the national curriculum right is a vital first step towards securing the Australia’s future economic prosperity.”

Follow Adam Bender on Twitter: @WatchAdam

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