Solving the IT graduate's dilemma

Members of an industry body aiming to address IT graduate skills, have spoken out about web standards education

A soon to be launched global IT education-focused body within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has called for greater dialogue between the IT industry and universities.

Due to be launched early 2010, the Open Web Education Alliance (OWEA), will be dedicated to promoting the best ways in which web professionals and IT graduates can gear themselves up for the workforce, and wants input from both industry and universities on how best to achieve this.

Speaking at the group’s WE Rock event at Australian Web Week, co-chair John Allsopp said the self-help, teach yourself approach to web development is not sustainable, and new education standards need to be formed.

“We need to transition a much more structured approach to educating future web designers, web developers and information architects,” Allsopp said. “A challenge exists to take the self-help eco-system of the web and make it become a profession with formal training.”

Leslie Jensen-Inman, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, said the new approach to web education needs to begin at an academic level in universities, but barriers still exist because the IT industry moves faster than academia, and universities struggle to update curriculum at the same pace.

“That is a huge challenge and it’s something that we have to work on,” Jensen-Inman said. “It’s one of the hardest challenges because it’s so systemic to the academic universe, which is less flexible than industry”.

Christian Crumlish, curator of the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library and design evangelist with the Yahoo! Developer Network, said an internationally recognised web standards education will help quench the industry’s thirst for front-end developers with a “left and right hand side of the brain”, who have all the technical expertise, but also put thought into the human experience.

“There’s a certain type of person who has an engineering bent, technical skills as well as an interest in what it’s like for a user,” Crumlish said. “The people who excel in [web development], have a little bit of interest on both sides.”

Crumlish said technology is outpacing the supply of qualified developers due to the dot com bust.

“Seven years on from the dot com bust, there’s a dearth of really well-experienced web developers and it’s not that easy to find them anymore.”

The alliance is ready to deliver a whitepaper to the W3C, outlining its operational plans and has backing from industry giants like Microsoft, Adobe and Opera Software.

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Tags careerscareer adviceweb standardsWE RockOpen Web Education Alliance (OWEA)

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