High school ICT courses could help fight future skills shortage

Industry courses is one avenue to getting young students interested in pursuing a career in ICT, says NACCQ

Secondary school ICT courses are being promoted as one way of encouraging students into an ICT career.

Lytton High School in Gisborne has been an official Cisco Networking Academy since 2003, and recently the school has also become a Microsoft IT Academy, says Maurice Alford, its ICT coordinator.

At least 100 students have gone through the Microsoft Office courses since 2000. Another 30 students have gone through either the CCNA (Cisco Certified Networking Associate) course, the MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) course or CompTIA A+, says Alford.

Most of the students doing the IT courses are boys, he says, but the school is working on getting girls interested as well.

“We do have one 13-year old girl who has already started the A+ course,” he says proudly.

Alford thinks it is extremely important that secondary schools are able to offer ICT courses.

“ICT is part of the fabric of our society,” he says. “You wouldn’t [accept] a school that didn’t offer mathematics teachers, [so] why would you think that you can afford to ignore having specialist ICT courses?” he says.

One of the challenges for schools is to keep increasing the breadth of what they can offer, says Alford.

“It’s not good enough for us to [just offer] Microsoft Office, because some of [the students] are going to want to become graphic artists, and want to learn how to use Macromedia Flash, for example.”

The National Advisory Committee on Computing Qualifications (NACCQ) encourages secondary schools to offer ICT courses and is fully supportive of qualifications such as CCNA, Microsoft Office Specialist Master, CompTIA A+ and Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator, says Garry Roberton, chairperson of NACCQ and education manager of the School of IT at the Waikato Institute of Technology.

“We have incorporated the Cisco courses into [the] NACCQ curriculum document for diploma programmes,” he says.

Offering ICT courses in secondary school is one of the avenues to getting young students interested in pursuing a career in ICT, says Roberton.

“It is a way if showing potential [future] employees what is possible,” he says. “And employers are certainly keen to [employ] students who not only have got a recognised tertiary qualification but also globally recognised industry qualifications.”

The resources for these industry courses are provided by the industry itself, says Roberton. All the examination and marking is done online. This also means that the industry will update the tests as technology updates.

In addition, the cost of offering the courses is reasonable, say both Alford and Roberton.

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