Conversation with teacher

My friend who is also a professor told me that as Information Technology departments increasingly focus their objectives with global business, the further they distance themselves from traditional academia. He said: “We are not sure about changing our approach to global business since we do not understand globalization well enough to teach our students, of course we can discuss theories but today things change so fast that we can not keep up”.

I told him that university must address its education gap and take immediate action to correct the mismatch between current university programs and the real-world skills required for its students to remain competitive in a global market. The IT knowledge and skills have changed significantly over the past decade, and as many technical jobs move globally, most employers are no longer looking for programmers and pure technologists anymore. However universities have not responded quickly enough to the change and are failing to fulfill the need for emerging skills such as software architect and software project manager. Universities and global companies need to work together to address the challenge because IT works could really help improve the economy as it moves towards a knowledge-based society. Current education no longer adequately reflects the needs of the global IT market and if not change fast enough, our students will suffer as other countries are moving faster to take advantage of these gaps. Universities need to adapt new curricula to develop highly-skilled individuals with a broad range of IT and business skills.

My friend said: “But most of us never work in the software industry, we do not know how to teach things such as architect or global management. We are computer scientist not business people. It should be the business school responsibilities since they are dealing with global business more than we do”.

I told him: “It is NOT the traditional business taught at Business school that deals with the current issue. Today information technology is the new business; IT is the new business skills that global business wants. Unfortunately this global need is available for a very short time as competition is high. Due to the shortage of skilled people, many countries are outsourcing works to other countries, many will hire skilled students to work in their countries, and many will open office globally to have the skills that they need. If university does not change fast then we will not be able to educate our students to take advantage of this opportunity. As educator, we must monitor the global job market, the economy needs and fulfill them since we are responsible for our students and our country. The tradition that professor knows what is important to students is gone. Today, professor must understand the global economy as the industry is dictating what important skills that students must have before they can hire them. Since there are many schools, I think some will change and some will not but as they educate students, you will see which school attracts more students than the others. Today company will hire students from schools that teach certain skills and they will ignore the traditional schools that do not understand their needs. As students know that, they will enroll in universities that can address this need to ensure that they will get good jobs when they graduate. In the near future many students will work for foreign companies as globalization is expanding. Some may travel to work oversea; some may work at home as the internet connects people with global companies. Many will receive higher salaries than local companies as the competition heat up and with better salaries their life will improve. It is important to understand this trend because it also influences the prosperity of the economy. Ten years ago, India is a poor country with a large population; due to the improvement in education it focuses all efforts on the information technology and now has more than 10 million people working in this area. India IT industry contributes 15% of the GDP in a very short time. Many countries are now following this model as they improving their education system.

My friend asked: “What are the important skills that we do not teach in Computer science today? Are you mentioning business or finance courses?”

I told him: “For software industry, understand customer is the most important skills so I think the hot skills essential to current workforce are Requirements Engineering, Enterprise Architecture, System Security, Software Project management, System Integration and Supplier management, and they are all Information technology courses. These are courses designed with input from companies to develop students for new IT roles in this fast changing world. However, these courses are not yet available at major universities where the best students used to enroll. The new skill requirement is sending a signal to students that current academic courses are now obsolete or no longer valued at industry. Top universities need to incorporate these skills into their curricula immediately, as they are now an integral part of the IT profession. They need to realize their students will not fare well in the workplace without them. The future of our economy will depend on the development of these high-level students.

My friend said: “You are asking for a lot of works. It will take a long time to get these courses in place. Where do we find time to do them as we are very busy teaching.”

I told him: “Of course we are all busy but in the past few years, I have seen huge investment in Information Technology education area. All over the world, IT is becoming a key area for investment and development of human resources. The U.S, Europe, India and China are leading the change with more technology courses in their training programs. As educator we must understand that even in education, competition is also high. Many schools have made the switch to add IT as a requirement for all fields. Many governments have great expectation for IT as the solution for the current economic recession; the education sector remains one of the few that is still receiving funding, even in these difficult times. I think if you want, you could make time to improve the education program regardless of how busy you are.

My friend said: “But it will take time, even we work hard it will be several years for change to happen. You are asking the impossible.”

I told him: “Yes, it is a challenge for all educators. We are all facing tremendous pressure from our students to make change happens but we have to make this transition quickly. Every year, around this time most students are preparing for applying jobs and many come to see me for advises. Getting a job in software is much more than just filling applications but there are a number of things that students can bring to an interview to maximize your chances of getting the job. Such ‘employability’ is essentially a composite of knowledge, skills, and the effectiveness in presenting those skills and the manner in which they must communicate to their employers. We are responsible to help them to get the best chance possible. I think a good education is a good start, as far as employability is concerned. An IT degree is always necessary to break into a good career for the long term. A key thing that we must remember is that IT education does not end with the degree but it is just the beginning. If our students wish to remain competitive, they will need to constantly improve their skills. We must educate our students that learning never stops when they leave the school but it must be a lifelong learning. Today many people who study other fields are moving into IT because this is the area that have good job prospect. As educator we are responsible for our students and our country and if we do not does a good job in educating them, help them to have a good career, then we fail our students as well as ourselves.

Sources

  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University