In an effort to attract young people to the skill-challenged ICT industry, the HiGrowth Project and the Ministry of Education are developing an ICT framework for high schools.
“We are just about to put the recommendations of the first phase out for review by the people involved,” says Garth Biggs, executive director of the HiGrowth Project.
The recommendations are not yet public, but Biggs says they are aimed at raising the capabilities of high schools to deliver ICT education, as well as raising the status of ICT courses, in terms of NCEA (National Certificate of Educational Achievement) credits. Biggs expects the first phase of the ICT framework project to be rolled out early next year.
There is no single solution to the skills shortage problem and that is a concern, says Biggs.
The HiGrowth Project also has more initiatives planned.
“We are busy working on an advertising campaign right now that will, hopefully, get people questioning [the image of the industry],” he says.
“People have a really poor perception of what it is all about.”
These perceptions include: thinking that working in ICT just means doing spreadsheets and word processing; the negative geek image associated with the industry; and the fear of another dotcom crash. These are all areas of concern that the HiGrowth Project needs to work on — all at the same time, says Biggs.
But the industry also needs to help, by offering internships, apprenticeships and sponsorships, he says.
“[Companies] need to employ qualified people who don’t have experience, [rather than waiting] for someone else to give them that experience first,” he says.
Pushing salaries up and stealing staff from competitors is not going to benefit the local ICT industry, he says.
ICT recruitment agencies say they would welcome more graduate programmes. A number of ICT companies did offer such programmes before the dotcom crash, but since then the number has declined, says Grant Burley, director of recruitment firm absoluteIT.
“Graduate programmes need to be introduced again,” he says. “Over time, it would definitely help with the skills shortage.”
He adds that offering such programmes is a cheap way of maintaining staff levels, and attracting and retaining staff.