back to article High Schools putting kids off IT careers, deepening skills shortage

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 …


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ICT teaches computer use, not industry skills

With the stuff they teach in schools these days it is like complaining that driver education does not encourage the right people to become diesel mechanics.

Look at the stuff they teach in most schools: a bit of word processing, spread sheeting, how to find stuff on Wikipedia then copy/paste etc.

That, and their proficiency in fiddling with the settings in their Facebook profile, is about the limit to their exposure. From that most kids, their parents and school system give career advice.

"Johnny, you're so good at making the computer do things. You are a computer whizz. You will do great at Computer Science."

No wonder computer science has one of the highest first year drop out and failure rates. The students have no way to measure their aptitude before starting at university.


Re: ICT teaches computer use, not industry skills

Actually that's not true at all. At least it wasn't 9 years ago (god I'm getting old...) when I was in high school.

My school offered two classes, IPT and SDD (Information processes and technology & software design and development). These were the only IT courses available and I did both.

In IPT we learnt about binary, logic gates and the actual physical workings of the PC (how CPUs work, how data is actually written to a hard drive, etc) which was exactly the same stuff I learnt in my first year of uni in the same subject. SDD pretty much covered the basics of what I do for a living now, we programmed in VB (back then it was one of the most widely used languages, the be replaced by which is just as widely used) and made actual software and focused on the rules and principles of OO design.

The real problem? I had to self teach every last bit of that information. My teachers, who at least told us to read that information, were personally complete idiots. The students ran all the IT for the school and select few (of which I was one) had full administrator rights and would often set up network hardware.

The difficulty lies in the fact that no one with any real intelligence chooses to work with high school students (they are not particularly nice) in a role needing the same skills as any other job offering to pay twice as much unless they are unemployable in that other job.

Many of my classmates failed or dropped out because they were not taught, not because what they were MEANT to be taught was lacking.


Wrong - sillybus virtually unchanged since 1999

"The NSW Higher Schools Certificate’s Software Development and Design course is unchanged since 2009"

Wrong ! It is fundamentally unchanged since the initial 1999 release, all the 2009 revision did was remove a few of the most outdated learn to/learn about dot points and shuffle some others off into the course specification.

After working for some of Australia's largest IT shops as Programmer/Analyst/PM for over 25 years before deciding to become a teacher I weep when I read the syllabus...

At an inservice tackled one of the authors of the "revision" asking where the word database was (not mentioned once!) and why the core wasn't smaller (do you really need to know how to code a binary search these days?) and some options to allow us to strand and tailor the course to our students eg an option on databases, on web programming, on object oriented programming (OO is 2 dot points or about 1 periods worth !) , on apps programming , different development methodologies(currently 1 periods worth) - no the kids need to learn this themselves (with help from their teacher) when they do their major project.

Many of the older SDD teacher are ex maths & science teachers who fell into the job who were in the first iteration about 2 weeks ahead of their students are now comfortable with what they know.

The Board of Studies doesn't help when in the current rewrite of the IT (VET) syllabus to match the new ICA11 package they decided the 3 strand option instead of the 5 that most teachers wanted, and cut out he units that the kids would most interested in and added the really boring ones as compulsory.

It also doesn't help when my budget (less computers supplied by the dept & the departmental Microsoft & Adobe licences) is about $2 per student per year ! If I wanted to buy a single licence to allow the kids to build an app using dragonfire would take my half my budget (I have a licence paid for by me and only installed on 1 computer which they turns on )!


Re: Wrong - sillybus virtually unchanged since 1999

sorry for typos and missing words - at home with a stinking headcold


Why would you expect a school to teach career based IT ?

Funny, I always thought schools gave everyone a set of basic skills and it was the job of vocational colleges to overlay these with career-oriented skills.

Anonymous Coward

Without a doubt, the reason I'm in IT at all, is in spite of what was taught at school, not because of it.

At school, IT related subjects included topics such as word processing (Word), some basic web design (Publisher, then later, Frontpage), programming (VisualBASIC for Applications), databases (Access), general typing skills, operating system basics (Windows 95)...etc.

At home, IT related work included programming (C, VisualBASIC, CA Realizer BASIC, QBASIC/QuickBASIC, Perl, PHP, JavaScript and Python), hardware tinkering, web design (by hand or using Netscape Composer, later with DreamWeaver), databases (MySQL), networking (TCP/IP and Windows networking), operating system maintenance (Windows 3.1/DOS, Windows 95, Linux, SCO OpenServer, Windows NT 4, OS/2 Warp) ...etc.

Much more interesting IMO.

Perhaps if they want to entice kids into the scene, they need to work on extracurricular activities that the student can perform in their own leisure? School should be about the basics, as that's what most teachers can teach well.

Anything else is going to require a person who is more technically minded than people minded, and likely would much rather prefer actually working in industry than being shackled by the education system.


IT != programming. The quicker everyone gets this idiotic notion out their heads the better. Teach clear thinking, communication (not marketing speak and spin, but the gathering and dissemination of actual information), teamwork leavened with initiative, systems and application architecture, and a bit of some (ANY) programming language--they're all interchangable as far as I can tell over the last 25 years--for basic techniques, and there you go.

Fashions in programming and platforms change, but the basic business problem never does, i.e. I have these requirements, what will I need to get there?

What won't come without hard yakka is how to interpret business requirements in the first place, how to evaluate myriad competing products and environments, how to focus effort and resources and on what, how to set expectations, how to position technology in a business context and make it valuable as opposed to expensive, and all the other things where IT typically FAILS. Technology itself can be cool and fun, but that's hardly the point in the real world.

Anyway if the facetube generation don't get it, all the more work for old bastards like meself until I get sick of it and retire. Thank you very much, invoice follows.

Silver badge

Grade-school == "the three Rs", in my mind.

I'll allow typing as "writing", *please* teach kids to type!

But IT? Or programming? Only as electives in highschool. Not everyone is capable of that kind of career ... Let 'em figure out that that kind of focused, job oriented myopia in college/uni ... kinda like veterinarians, geologists, engineers and psychologists.

YES there are exceptions to the rule ... nurture the exceptional kids in given fields! Don't drag 'em back to the depths of the great-unwashed's lowest common denominator ... but don't expect the entire class to grok the concept of and/nand/or/xor gates and how to wire-wrap the relays together at age 7 (my science fair project, ... mid 1960s).

And for GAWD/ESS's sake, don't equate the ability to use the likes of Androids & iFads & other so-called "smart" technology, along with !GooMyFaceYouMsTwit-ish web sewers with IT knowledge ... that shit is completely killing (diluting to the point of stupidity?) the potential of this connectivity and information sharing[1] tool.

[1] I said "sharing", not "marketing".


Supply and Demand

There isn't a shortage of supply, there's a failure of demand to put it's money where it's mouth is.

What the bosses are complaining is that they don't like the standard of the monkeys they are getting for the peanuts they are paying.

All they need to do is raise the amount of money (pay, conditions, training etc) until smart students decide that IT is a worthwhile career rather than say, Law.

Or if they are complaining they can't get _anyone_ with the right skillset no matter what they pay, perhaps they should consider things like internal training, internships etc, rather than complaining that someone else isn't training their staff for free.


Unless they show a very specialised ability, I will be advising my two (parent's modesty) very bright children to avoid a career in IT like the plague. Agressive management, commoditisation and off-shoring have made it a very risky proposition.

Silver badge

"skills shortage"

Should equal decently high pay for skilled people.

Except there isn't.

Low wages for keyboard monkeys has convinced management that low wages should be paid across the board - which in turn removes any incentive for people to invest in upskilling themselves.


definition of IT?

both my kids did some sort of "IT" in school, but it was not really IT it was more along the lines of drawing pictures in adobe, and or some other DTP package, admittedly the elder one loved it and was very creative, but was still totally oblivious to even the most basic of computer problems/functions...

the youngest had a better "IT" class, but it was still finding the appropriate sentence in a odf and pasting the answer into a text box sort of thing, although it did try to teach a little a bit about security, and cyber bullying and stuff, still no nuts n bolts, they basically taught them to use it as a tool, something which can be fixed by magical IT faeries when it breaks, or more accurately, replaced with a new thing.

It is a shame, because the kids today could really use some help in the critical thinking department, but i have always wanted a more hands on practicle approach to teaching, i agree in many ways that the origional three R's should be taught, i think that is something that is missing a bit, at least in US schools, I cannot speak for other nations, though if you ask all the kids they are doing advanced PHD stuff that we never have even heard of in our day (maths and english never existed back then and it was up hill both ways to school in the dark in a thunderstorm with freezing rain... etc etc)

I guess the idea is that, if they are truly interested, they will educate themselves, however that seems to only work for a few people, the rest would rather laugh at dumb pictures on tumblr all day until they get a virus, then whine until it is fixed


When I was at school (20 years ago!) the teaching in "computer science" consisted of one old fart Maths Teacher who'd done a few days on a training course with RM in order to bolster his salary before retiring to his final salary pension scheme.... It was a totally worthless non-effort on their part just to tick a box and say "yes, we do computers".

My partner is a teacher in a shiny, new academy. I'd like to tell you that things are much better today, but they really aren't. It's still the same old crap about writing/saving files in excel/corel draw etc & last time I heard they're still using floppy disks for this... The teachers drone and stutter their way through a sylabus that is both totally out-of-date and poorly concieved and the kids who "have it" lose interest as it's so spirit-crushingly boring to them and those who don't just muck about as they don't see the value. They go at the pace of the slowest pupil in the "mixed ability" class (who - unfortunately - often turns out to be the one supposed to be teaching it!), and everyone else just gets bored. If someone does actually add anything else to their program whilst they're waiting for the rest of the class to catch up they get castigated for "mucking about" (I know, i've been there).

Frankly they could have torn the whole experience out of a book entitled "How to demotivate, frustrate and disenfranchise people from the learning process".

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