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High Schools putting kids off IT careers, deepening skills shortage

ACS Foundation queries whether IT as a career should even be taught

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High School teaching of IT as a career actually puts kids off pursuing careers in the field, according to John Ridge, Executive Director of the Australian Computer Society Foundation Trust Fund (ACSF).

Ridge says general computer literacy courses in early high school are important and welcome, as employers expect some level of skill with productivity applications when hiring. But once kids start to study IT as a career, he says, they tend to abandon the idea of actually working in the industry.

The reason for the rebound, he says, is that too few teachers have the skills and passion to teach IT well. In New South Wales, Ridge said he feels 100 to 200 IT teachers do well … but with more than 1000 high schools in the State that’s not a great strike rate. Without proper resourcing and relevant curricula – the NSW Higher Schools Certificate’s Software Development and Design course is unchanged since 2009 – Ridge therefore wonders if it is even worth teaching IT as a career in schools.

Ridge also cited conversations with peers who feel University computer science curricula have changed little in decades.

The ACSF tries to step in where curriculum development fails, with its Work Integrated Learning scholarship scheme offering a way for recent graduates to bridge the worlds of University and work in a year-long program. But Ridge feels the Foundation can do only so much – it has placed 3850 students over ten years - and that unless schools and Universities improve Australia will struggle to meet the opportunity for growth in IT services, which he said will expand tenfold worldwide.

“Australia’s share of the IT services market has fallen as global demand has increased four-fold,” he told El Reg.

But Ridge also added that Schools and Universities can’t bring about change alone.

“There are lots of different groups who need to do this,” he said. “They should get together and there has to be a co-ordinated approach.” ®

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