Institutions answer booming demand

The growing importance of IT and resultant skill shortages is fuelling demand for education.

The growing importance of IT and resultant skill shortages is fuelling demand for education.

The ITANZ 2000 survey of the New Zealand IT industry revealed sales of education and training increased 46.8% last year to $94.7 million. Further strong growth is expected in coming years.

Research firm IDC confirms this with its survey, New Zealand IT Education and Training Market, 1998–2003. Though written in 1999, IDC believes the predictions still hold.

It predicted compounded growth of 8.4% a year until 2003, with technology-based training, such as over the web, growing by 62.8% a year to take a sixth of the market by 2003. In contrast, instructor-led training would grow annually by just 7.9%.

Intermediaries or IT training specialists dominated the market in 1999, but software publishers had the ability to gain market share from traditional providers as they moved into end-user training, IDC predicted.

Three short-term trends were also forecast: skills shortage, increased importance of internet-based training and public institutions entering the market.

Two years later this is apparently the case: the skills shortage is still there. Such is the dearth of skilled staff, vendors such as Oracle, Cisco and IBM are even restoring training programmes after axing them in the 1980s.

“But because their competitors are not providing training, they are forced to lock people in for 12 months, etc,” says Ross Turner of Pinnacle.

Ever keen to cut costs, business has embraced internet-based training. In the US, IDC expects it will become the dominant source of training. It saves on travel costs and allows people to learn at their own pace.

Despite its growth, its effectiveness is limited, a fact even admitted by its suppliers as well as users.

Australasian training provider Com Tech Educational Services surveyed training managers across both sides of the Tasman. About 60% use internet-based training, though 83% of them rate it as “not very successful”. Even so, Com Tech uses online training as part of its new Bachelor of Computing, supplied via Deakin University.

Recruitment consultants say online courses are “not really recognised” and they are no substitute for a recognised certification and experience. But they add they are better than nothing: they offer a cheap way of upskilling staff and are fine when combined with on-the-job and classroom based training.

One of New Zealand’s larger providers of online courses, Hamilton-based Pavilion Technologies, offers 550 courses ranging in cost from $160 to $300-plus.

Chief Wayne Atwell says “hundreds” of courses have been sold and the company is happy with their uptake, though they are more popular overseas. The courses offer end user desk top skills, MCSEs and even Java, XML and HTML but Atwell accepts their limits.

“They are certainly a supplement. We do not position them to be the be-all and end-all of training. It supplements, rather than replaces classroom training,” he says.

So if it is back to the classroom, where do you go? IDC was right in predicting public institutions moving into the market.

New Zealand’s first professor of e-commerce, Brian Corbitt recently branded the internet and IT as ‘the new gold rush”. His university — Victoria — has just launched a new Masters in Information Management degree, which he describes as “an MBA” for IT professionals.

Next year, Victoria will also introduce a four-year Bachelor of Information Technology, allowing students to specialise in information systems, internet computing, software development and computer engineering. It will offer 200 places.

Auckland University of Technology (AUT) also launches a three-year Bachelor of Information Technology, focused on the development of software and programming analysis.

It also plans a graduate diploma and a graduate certificate in IT, aimed at IT professionals wanting short courses relevant to their work.

The certificate takes a year part-time, the diploma two years part-time and builds on professional experience, says Jenny Bygrave, associate dean of the business faculty.

AUT also offers a masters degree in information technology, a two year qualification looking at the advanced study of technical areas of programming, networking and the internet; plus IT management, IT strategy and integrating it with the rest of the enterprise.

The masters will offer 20 to 30 places initially, building up to 100. The bachelors courses have 200-300 places.

The University of Auckland has new courses on internet programming, and expanded courses in artificial intelligence, computer graphics and graphical user interfaces.

A four-year software engineering degree — BE (Software) — has just been launched, which will offer more than 200 places by 2004. The first will look at the theory, technology, practice and applications of software in computer-based systems.

Growth of this and its other high-tech courses will also mean a new $13.6 million computer science building, scheduled for completion in 2003.

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