Postgrad course to boost job prospects

There is need for in-service professional development for graduates in the ICT sector, says report

An industry consortium is tackling the ICT skills gap by establishing a postgraduate qualification for graduates with three- or four-year tertiary qualifications. The Postgraduate Certificate in Professional Development covers technical updates and management topics. It is a two year course that allows students to continue working full time while studying.

The course targets graduates with a university degree in engineering, technology, computer science or information systems and a minimum of two years of work experience in the electronics or ICT sector. The initiative is a way of using existing skills, and up-skilling graduates who have been working in the industry for some time, according to the HiGrowth Project.

Massey University, the University of Canterbury, the University of Waikato and AUT are collaborating to deliver the postgraduate course using a distance-learning model.

“We have an under-qualified sector, and beyond graduation there is need for continuous professional development in a field as internationally competitive as ICT,” says Bob Hodgson, who is a professor of information engineering at Massey University and has been involved in developing the programme.

Research undertaken by the consortium shows that a significant proportion of people working in the local ICT sector are academically under-qualified or self-taught, says Hodgson. A report undertaken as part of the government’s growth and innovation policy also says that there is need for better provision of in-service professional development for graduates in the ICT sector in the first one to five years of their work experience, he says.

The programme started earlier this year and so far feedback from students has been excellent, says Hodgson. The response from industry has also been positive, he says. But there needs to be a shift from short-term thinking to focusing on long-term solutions.

“The industry was very supportive of the development of the course, and it helped specify the nature of [the course] but we have been underwhelmed with enrolments,” he says. “We need to see some sort of culture change in the New Zealand industry.”

The students meet a few times per semester for intensive lectures, reviews and presentations. The rest of the work is done in their own time with support through web material, says Hodgson.

The consortium consists of IPENZ (Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand), the HiGrowth Project, ITANZ, the New Zealand Computer Society, the New Zealand Software Association, ETITO, Telecom, EDS, Endeavour Capital and the New Zealand Council of Engineering Deans. The Tertiary Education Commission is funding the initiative.

The consortium will continue to play an active role in ensuring that the course meets the needs of the ICT industry.

In addition, research is currently being done to identify the education and training needs of people in engineering and computer science-related roles who don’t have tertiary qualifications but have three or more years of work experience and to identify how these needs can be met, says Hodgson.

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