Roundtable discussion hosted by The Open University and chaired by BCS Learning & Development Specialist Group highlights future of IT skills. The group agreed the rapid pace of technology change means there must be a new approach to IT education
IT can help to solve global problems but there needs to be more of an emphasis on critical thinking and problem-solving skills, according to a panel of IT experts.
These were two of a number of insights from a roundtable on the future of IT skills held today at the BCS London office and hosted by The Open University. Panellists included speakers from BCS Learning & Development Specialist Group, The Open University, Capita IT Professional Services and CompTIA.
The group agreed the rapid pace of technology change means there must be a new approach to IT education. Technical skills quickly become outdated but the underlying approach to IT problems – including understanding the challenge, planning, selecting technology and managing implementation – remained similar. These skills need to become more widely taught if the UK’s computing skills are to be applied to global business, economic and societal challenges.
Melindi Britz from CompTIA said: “A lot of the skills debate is aimed at inspiring people into jobs at the likes of Google or IBM. But the real skills gap lies with small businesses and vertical sectors like medicine. The start-ups we work with need better IT skills as well as business skills, to grow their business and create more IT jobs. We have the most entrepreneurial generation ever about to join the workforce. We need them to have the technical and critical skills to make the most of that drive, not just push them towards big companies.
“One of the big problems of training is retention of information. Some training courses fire information at you but it’s forgotten in three months. There is lots of exciting research which shows how practical skills can be taught in ways to prime the brain to remember them at the right moment. Educators and trainers should actively engage with these new ideas.”
Dr Jon Hall, senior lecturer in computing at The Open University, added: “Probably the best approach is for universities to play the role of instilling the long-term skills needed by IT professionals at both an undergrad and post grad level. These will include critical and problem-solving skill as well as topics which are here to stay, like security. Meanwhile, trainers will run shorter courses on technical skills like C++ and skills of the moment like offshoring/reshoring, which are necessary but will need regular updating.
“We need a long-term vision and corresponding investment from government in IT skills to inspire young and older people into IT. We need to talk on 25 year timescales, not five years. We must implement this properly; otherwise we may find we don’t have a UK IT industry.”