The Supply of Information Technology Workers in the United States
Chapter 10: Recommendations
As noted in the Executive Summary, these recommendations are offered on the basis of the study group's collected experience and study of the supply of information technology (IT) workers. It is hoped that at a minimum they will spark productive discussion. They are organized by intended audience. A summary of the recommendations can be found in box 10-1 following this chapter.
1. FEDERAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS
1.1. Data-collection practices must be improved.
The federal government is by far the most reliable and comprehensive source of data on the supply of and demand for information technology (IT) workers, and it continues to be in the best position to collect these data. However, current data are not as useful as they could be because they are not timely, they are not sufficiently comprehensive, they do not employ adequate categorizations in many cases, and there is insufficient comparability among data collected by different agencies. There needs to be better coordination among federal agencies when collecting data about supply and demand, and data should be collected in a way that permits meaningful comparison across data sets-no matter which federal agency collects the data.
1.2. A new system for tracking the demand for and supply of IT workers should be created.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) have done a good job using their traditional approaches, but those measures are not sufficient to fully inform decision-makers. It is the federal government's responsibility to bring together representatives from industry and academia to create a new system that will better meet the needs of policymakers for supply and demand data.
1.3. Data collected must be comprehensive to be useful for policy deliberations.
The data need to cover all parts of the United States. This has not generally been a problem in federal data, but is sometimes a problem with data from other sources. The regional studies reviewed by the study group appear to be useful in their geographical domain, but they do not adequately account for interstate movements that could be extensive. On the supply side, data need to be collected not only about formal degree programs in IT-related disciplines such as computer science and information systems, but also about other disciplines that train many IT workers, such as business, engineering, and science. Data should also be collected about non-degree programs, including those offered by for-profit and other non-traditional organizations. The data need to cover all U.S. demand for IT workers, not only that of companies in the IT sector. Companies outside the IT sector and all small companies may be under-represented in existing demand statistics. The demand data should be broken down into categories that are useful to suppliers for setting their curricula and enrollment sizes.
1.4. The Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) categories for information technology occupations need to be reviewed and refreshed on a regular basis.
These categories currently are of marginal use in connection with many IT policy issues. Although the task is onerous and there are potential risks to the longitudinal continuity of data, classifications of IT workers should be reviewed every couple of years and refreshed as needed to reflect the current state of the field. Classifications must be based not on job titles, but on the tasks performed and the skill sets required to do these tasks. Some important sources of supply are currently not tracked well (e.g., information systems bachelor's degrees and continuing education enrollments).
1.5. Federal and state governments, with industry involvement, should improve IT-related training mechanisms at the K-12 educational levels and keep them current. Counseling, teacher training, curricula, and computing facilities all need improvement relative to information technology.
Students are being unconsciously eliminated from the candidate pool of IT workers by the knowledge and attitudes they acquire in their K-12 years. Many students do not learn the basic skills of reasoning, mathematics, and communication that provide the foundation for higher education or entry-level jobs in IT work. A number of students who have some or all of these basic skills do not consider IT careers because they believe (often incorrectly) they cannot succeed in this area, or because they have misperceptions about the opportunities or the nature of the work. It is in the nation's interest to have as large a potential pool of IT workers as possible. In any case, many of the skills learned in preparing for a possible career in information technology are skills that will serve people well in other careers, and more generally as citizens in the twenty-first century.
This is not a task solely for government-at any level-to do alone. There is a large role that industry can and should play in local communities in providing new and used equipment, enriching curricula, supplying adjunct instructors, and training teachers. In addition to direct financial investment in the public schools, governments can sponsor programs to teach K-12 students about IT opportunities, develop model programs, disseminate information about best practices, stimulate academic-industry partnerships, and make the public aware of the importance of improved education. A great deal has already been accomplished in this area, particularly in providing adequate computing facilities to the schools. It appears that the schools have made more progress in obtaining facilities than they have in the other three areas: adequate counseling, teacher training, and curriculum development.
1.6. The federal government, and especially state governments, should help to strengthen traditional higher educational programs in IT-related areas.
The higher educational system is a tremendous national resource and remains the foundation for providing IT-workers. It is basically healthy, but needs some augmentation in the IT areas. The government can encourage colleges and universities to expand and create degree and non-degree options at all levels that better prepare students to meet industry needs. These programs can simultaneously provide up-to-date basic skills training, while being more attentive to the workforce objectives of industry.
The need seems to be greatest at the associate's and master's degree levels, which are more career-oriented than the baccalaureate and the doctorate. Fewer than one-third of the community colleges are offering associate degree programs in IT-related areas. Many universities could offer professionally oriented master's programs that better meet the needs of local industry for mid- to high-level IT workers. Governments can have a profound influence on the programs offered by the formal educational system, using the power of leadership by elected officials, incentives added to current funding programs to colleges and universities, new funding programs, statistics about the need of programs, and development and communication for best practices.
1.7. Government can help faculty and educational staff adapt to the new demand for IT-trained students.
There is a long-standing tension, not only in IT-related curricula, between basic educational and career goals. U.S. colleges and universities are the envy of the world, which indicates that many aspects of the curriculum are already balanced appropriately, but there is room for improvement. For example, in doctoral programs many faculty believe that their goal is to produce clones of themselves-graduates who have the same skills and aspirations as they do. These programs tend to produce too many people who are trained for careers in research universities, and not enough who are trained to enter industry or to teach in the teaching-oriented institutions that train the majority of undergraduates who enter the IT field. At the associate degree level, the faculty need to review whether vendor-specific curricula are meeting their basic educational needs.
1.8. Government should help to attract more students into graduate programs in IT-related disciplines.
Although enrollments have increased slightly in the past several years, universities are still having difficulty recruiting students-especially those who are U.S. citizens-to attend graduate school in IT-related programs. They also are experiencing increasing difficulty in retaining their graduate students long enough to complete their degrees, especially the Ph.D. degree. The percentage of U.S. students in these graduate programs has recently fallen to less than fifty percent. Government should provide new fellowships and traineeships to encourage graduate study in these disciplines, especially for U.S. citizens. It has been the general practice to base fellowship support in computing disciplines (as in other science and engineering disciplines) primarily on intellectual and scholarly merit. There are sound reasons for this practice, but other factors, including the intention to enter critical areas (such as teaching) and geographical location, should also be considered. The National Research Service Awards offered by the National Institutes of Health might be one model to consider for information technology.
1.9. Government should help faculty and staff cope with the greatly increased demand in the IT area.
Many university faculty in IT-related disciplines are feeling heavily overworked, which is affecting their ability to carry out their principal duties of teaching and research, and also causing some faculty to leave the profession. Contributing factors include heavy undergraduate teaching loads (compared with other science and engineering disciplines) due to lack of faculty, large classes, heavy committee work assignments to help out the university central administration and other university departments with their expanding IT needs, lack of adequate support staff to help with teaching laboratories, increased pressure from university central administrations to bring in external funding, and the need to be constantly writing funding proposals because of the small, short-term grants given by federal agencies. Federal and state governments could ease this situation by providing funding for support staff, both to the faculty themselves and to their departments, and by having larger individual grants that cover longer periods of time.
1.10. The federal government, and NSF in particular, must be vigilant and prevent a seed-corn problem in IT-related disciplines.
Many members of the computing community believe that IT graduate students and faculty are being attracted to jobs in industry in increasing numbers, and there is worry that there will not be adequate teacher-scholars left to train the next generation of IT workers (the so-called "seed-corn" problem). There are preliminary signs of a seed-corn problem. This is similar to the one computer science experienced around 1980, when there was a flight from academic to industrial careers, leaving the community wondering who would teach the next generation of students. If it becomes clearer that there is a seed-corn problem today, it will be up to government, industry, and academia to work together to fix the problem. NSF is in the best position to assess the situation and to lead solution efforts, if needed. The key to preventing the problem is to make graduate study and a faculty career attractive to well-qualified people. This means making the work interesting and the work environment favorable. In 1980 this involved better computing facilities for research, more federal funding for both research and graduate student support (especially at the schools at greatest risk-those with mid-level rankings), an emphasis on experimental research, and voluntary restraint against raiding by the major industrial employers of computer science doctorates.
The situation today is similar, but not identical to the situation twenty years ago. There is not as great a need today for better computing facilities for research or for more experimental research, but there is a need for more adequate funding for long-term research and the environment to support it. A voluntary restraint program in industry may be harder to achieve this time, however, because the number of companies hiring doctorates in IT-related fields is much greater today than twenty years ago and the hiring companies are scattered across many industries, rather than being heavily concentrated in the computer manufacturing sector.
1.11. Federal and state governments must enhance the research climate in the universities.
A strong research milieu is essential to producing the next generation of creators of new and innovative ideas in information technology. By making universities a more attractive place for both faculty and graduate students, the likelihood of a seed-corn problem is diminished. Healthy research programs also have a strong impact on undergraduate education, both in the classroom and through involvement in the research. The report of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee (the PITAC Report) provides a set of recommendations for enhancing research in the nation's universities.110 This study is in full agreement with those recommendations, which are not repeated here.
1.12. Federal and state governments should actively encourage universities and industry to form a variety of partnerships to train the IT workforce.
Much of the work that needs to be done to train the IT work-force in the future should occur through partnerships between the academic and industrial sectors: industrial advice to universities on their curriculum; industrial employees teaching part-time; industry providing equipment and support assistance; university programs teaching additional career-oriented material; operating specialized, company-specific programs; and assisting companies in establishing internal educational programs. Government organizations can facilitate these kinds of collaboration.
1.13. The government should encourage the development of programs in academia and industry that attract underrepresented groups to IT careers.
If underrepresented groups-including women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, and perhaps older workers-were entering IT occupations in proportion to their numbers in the American population, the supply of IT workers in the United States would be much more adequate. This study does not take a position either way on affirmative action programs, but it is clear (from the programs in the 1980s to encourage women to enter the computing field) that such programs can be successful in increasing the supply of qualified IT workers.
1.14. Special efforts should be made to utilize the skills of older workers.
Older workers are a potential source of supply of IT workers that could and should be tapped to a greater extent than it currently is, although no one seems to have good estimates of the number of such workers. (The study group looks forward to the results of the study just now being undertaken by the NRC with support from NSF, which will include an examination of this issue.) No doubt many older workers have well-developed organizational and communication skills, which means that retraining could be completed quickly for these older workers-at least those with some technical background-to enter IT occupations. Government retraining programs to provide these skills to older workers may be cost effective. Such programs may have a particularly salutary effect in lessening the burden on individuals and communities created by lost jobs in the downsizing of the defense industry. These programs might counterbalance a perception that an IT career has a short duration and is only for the young.
2. HIGHER EDUCATION
2.1. Colleges and universities should keep their focus on providing strong basic education.
In the face of the rapidly changing world and even more rapidly changing IT field, it may seem impossible or irrelevant to provide a basic education that will endure. There is no question that it is difficult and that the nature of a basic education must evolve. The collected experience of the study group and observations of others, however, strongly indicate that the best preparation is still a basic education that provides its graduates with a solid foundation for life-long learning in multiple disciplines and skills.
2.2. Universities must recognize that there is a fundamental IT-related shift occurring in the economy and in most professions, and that they must reallocate resources for better and more extensive training in this area.
It is not surprising that university central administrations are chary to support departmental requests for additional resources. Resources are scarce in higher education, and reallocations tie up resources for long periods of time in bricks-and-mortar or capital equipment that need to be maintained, or commitments to the salaries of tenured faculty that may last thirty years. Nonetheless, universities must recognize that interest in IT-related disciplines is not a fad, but will continue to grow well into the next millennium as information technology continues to grow in prominence in our society. Some of that growth is occurring right now, as the doubling in newly declared computer science majors over the past two years attests. Not all the growth in institutional programs needs to be placed in the traditional IT disciplines, such as computer science and engineering. Some growth might occur in new interdisciplinary programs and departments, or in distributing information technology throughout the university, into various existing faculties and disciplines. The specific approach will need to be made on an individual basis, depending on local circumstances. But wherever in the academy this instruction is located, the colleges and universities should plan on significant, continuing allocation and reallocation of resources into IT-related faculty and curricula.
2.3. Higher education should provide faculty support to revise their curricula to provide more and better paths in the training of IT workers, as well as to provide better IT education for all students.
Most faculty have been doing their best to keep the curricula current, but the rapid rate of change and the press of other responsibilities make this task increasingly difficult. Some amount of information technology should be made a part of all basic education programs. Knowledge of the basic concepts of information technology is now almost as important as knowledge of the fundamentals of mathematics. This issue is not addressed in this report, but readers are referred to the recently released National Research Council report, Being Fluent With Information Technology.111 The higher educational system needs to provide a variety of training paths to IT careers. The system will be successful to the extent that it can accommodate students who have different interests, educational and vocational objectives, levels of technical ability and preparedness, and levels of self-confidence in their path to an IT career. By making the field more open to students with different objectives, backgrounds, and confidence levels, the field is more likely to attract students of all kinds.
2.4. Faculty in IT-related disciplines need to rethink their introductory undergraduate courses.
One barrier to attracting students to major in IT-related disciplines is the way in which some IT-related departments, especially computer science and computer engineering departments, introduce the subject to students. Faculty understandably do not want to water down their programs in order to attract students, but they sometimes mistakenly equate this positive desire for high standards with a need to make their entry-level courses overly rigorous-for example, with substantial mathematics and science requirements. These act as unnecessary barriers to entry for some students who could be successful in the IT field. Certain jobs, such as those in scientific programming, do require substantial training in calculus and science, but other kinds of IT jobs would benefit more from having their workers receive other kinds of training in problem-solving. Some of the requirements in IT-related undergraduate programs may be a holdover from earlier days, when a scientific programming career was the norm for college graduates in computer science. In any event, computer science and computer engineering entry-level courses sometimes have unusually high attrition levels, which is not in the long-term interest of students, employers, or the departments themselves.
Another problem of the introductory course in most computer science departments is that it is generally devoted entirely to learning the principles of computer programming. Such a course is narrowly focused and technical. It does not give students a good introduction to the nature of the computing field. For example, it does not show the engineering, mathematical, or theoretical aspects of the subject, how computers relate to business and management or to psychology, or how information technology can be applied to a wide range of problems in many fields of endeavor. Many of the scientific and engineering disciplines have developed introductory courses that survey the basic concepts and methods of their field, and the study group believes this would be appropriate for the IT-related disciplines as well. Students need to get, at an earlier stage in their education, a sense of what this subject is all about in order to make better-informed decisions about their studies and their career. The study group heard anecdotes about students who had indicated that they did not want to major in computer science because they perceived that it led to a career working with machines instead of with people. Some did not want to spend all their time involved in the technical problem-solving arcana of programming, but instead wanted to be working on real-world applications. Some students did not like the uncollaborative attitude they had seen among programmers. Courses that better show the human dimension of computing and its applicability would help to address these concerns.
2.5. IT-related departments should increase rather than restrict access to their courses and programs.
Because of the strong need for substantive education in computer science for other curricula (to prepare for IT or IT-enabled jobs), this increased demand may require both new funding from the university and reallocation of departmental funds. There is substantial enrollment pressure on faculty in IT-related departments today. At many schools the size of the undergraduate enrollment is increasing much faster than the size of the faculty or the graduate student population. This leads to large lecture classes, excessive demand on computer facilities, and student-teacher contacts that are stretched thin. Departments are limited in the number of students they can handle without additional resources, and when they become stressed by enrollments, they understandably take action to relieve the stress.
All of these strategies limit student opportunities to train for IT careers. It also means that those students who are admitted into the courses have a certain intellectual profile, which may be good for some IT occupations and less appropriate for others.
2.6. IT-related departments should develop graduate-level programs.
People with strong backgrounds in mathematics, science, engineering, or business have knowledge and skills that will allow them to retrain quickly for IT occupations, such as managers or creators of new technology. There have been surpluses of mathematicians, physicists, biologists, and engineers in recent years. Many of these scientists and engineers are of very high intellectual and technical quality, but are in fields that are unable to provide good careers. Technically oriented graduate programs in computer science, computer engineering, or information science could, with additional resources, accommodate the retraining of people with these skills by repackaging existing courses into a certificate program. Certificate programs that are focused rather than general seem to be particularly attractive to both students and employers. Examples of certificate programs of this kind are human-computer interfaces, bioinformatics, and high-performance computing.
2.7. University practices should be adjusted in order to be more supportive of the education of IT workers.
Better counseling is needed to let students know about opportunities in the IT field, the nature of the work, and the skills required to be successful in the field. This is particularly wanting in two-year colleges and high schools, but may be deficient in many four-year colleges and universities as well.
Existing IT-related departments (typically in computer science, computer engineering, or information science) can do more to provide additional paths to IT careers. This can be achieved, for example, through more flexible entry requirements into majors and by adding minors, cross-disciplinary programs, and certificates. The university administration should be supportive of these efforts in the existing departments.
However, there is a limit to how much any given department can do and still remain manageable in size and focused in mission. With good planning, there can be value in having multiple IT-related departments, each with its own mission, in the same university. This is already common at large universities. Some universities, such as Pennsylvania State, Berkeley, Rensselaer, and Michigan, have kept their existing departments intact and focused on their traditional missions, while at the same time forming new departments or schools to address some other, often interdisciplinary, aspects of information technology.
2.8. New ways are needed to improve the articulation between different levels of educational institutions.
This is a long-standing problem in many fields of higher education, but the IT situation highlights it and argues for new approaches. We have heard many comments about the difficulties that students experience in trying to transfer credits from one program to another as they move through the higher educational system in preparation for an IT career. This occurs at all levels-as a student moves from the vocational to the college preparatory associate degree, from the associate to the final two years of the baccalaureate degree, from one IT-related major at the baccalaureate level to another (management information science to computer science, for example), or from the professional master's degree to the doctorate. These kinds of problems are best addressed by having institutions at a variety of levels work together to set standards and procedures. Because procedures already exist for this kind of system-wide discussion and coordination in state higher educational systems, they need to take a leadership position on these issues and provide examples of best practices that can be followed by the entire U.S. higher educational system.
3.1. Industry should make data available regarding the demand for IT workers.
In the course of this study, it was almost impossible to obtain current data about industry demand for IT workers. Federal data were out of date and had problems of classification, and most industry data were both firm-specific and proprietary. Without cooperation from industry in supplying information about the kind of personnel they need, it is impossible for suppliers to plan accordingly. It would be useful to have data that meet all of the requirements set out above in the section on recommendations to federal and state governments about data-collecting practices.
3.2. Companies should invest more in entry-level training and the retraining of existing personnel.
Some medium and large-size companies already have extensive training programs for their IT workers. However, some small and mid-size companies do not invest substantially in training their workers, believing that they cannot afford the cost or time of training, or out of fear that they will be training employees who will eventually go to work for their competitors. Some companies that do invest do not invest optimally by planning for training, rather than responding to individual cases in an ad hoc way. In this fast-paced field, where product lines turn over in a matter of two or three years and where knowledge becomes obsolete in about the same length of time, it is critical that the workforce retain outstanding technical and communication skills, as well as industry and business knowledge. Companies should value the training provided by colleges and universities, but should not expect these schools to have produced the perfect employee. Even new college graduates from the strongest universities will not have all the knowledge they need to excel in the workplace. Given the many options in terms of subject, supplier, cost, and length of training available in the marketplace, there is likely to be a training program available to suit any employer need. Companies could broaden the candidate pool by their willingness to carry out more entry-level training, rather than expecting new employees to enter the company with all the requisite skills in place. Industry should also encourage its current employees to increase their skills by providing flexible work schedules, tuition assistance, and opportunities for distance or other kinds of learning experiences.
One of the impediments to more training for workers is that companies fear their training funds will be counterproductive if they train an employee who leaves the company to work for a competitor. A few attempts have been made by a collection of employers in a geographical region interested in the same labor pool to band together and jointly offer training programs for their collective group of employees. Sematech is an example in the semiconductor area. Companies participating in these arrangements have less fear of this migration problem because they believe they will profit as often as they lose under this system, and that all the employers will have access to a more highly qualified labor pool.
3.3. Companies outside of the IT sector need to recognize that information technology may become a core competency for them.
Some members of the study group believe that the Y2K problem is as serious as it is today because many companies outside of the IT sector reduced their IT workforce a few years ago, at the time when many corporations downsized. Companies need to recognize that information technology is essential to their livelihood, even if their main business is not IT products or services. These companies need to keep the quantity and quality of their computer operations at a high level in order to remain competitive. Given the competition for good IT workers and the striking variations in capabilities and productivity among these workers, managers will have to work to make their company a place that is perceived as an attractive place to work by IT workers.
3.4. Industry should work closely with the higher education system to improve education for IT workers.
The higher education system is one of this nation's great strengths, and it needs industry's support to remain vital. In recent years, some companies have de-emphasized their reliance on the higher education system and formed new kinds of training programs, either in-house or purchased from for-profit vendors. Companies gain from having programs that customize the curriculum to their particular needs, but the higher education system also plays an invaluable role in the production of a trained workforce. Individual companies, as well as industry groups, should work closely with colleges and universities to develop a more comprehensive curriculum-one that teaches the foundational skills that are the hallmark of the formal educational system as well as offering current, practical knowledge. Industry should support the formal university program by sponsoring scholarships and internships, providing access to facilities not available at the university, helping to outfit university laboratories, helping the schools with their staff development, having company professionals give lectures and teach courses at the university, and entering into various kinds of programmatic partnerships with the schools.
3.5. Industry should not take actions that in the long run harm the supply system.
Companies should restrain themselves in hiring students before they have completed their degrees, or at least support them to finish the degree as part-time students if they do hire them. This is a way in which companies can both be good citizens and help themselves in the long run. Students who are able to complete their education have learned a set of foundational skills that will make them more effective employees. They will be less likely to become obsolete quickly, and will be better able to learn new skills and knowledge as needed.
Companies should also restrain themselves from hiring away faculty. Unless there is an adequate number of high-quality faculty and enough students completing their doctorates to renew the faculty ranks, the IT community will again have a seed-corn problem and the universities will become progressively less able to train students who will meet industry needs. Industry needs to sacrifice some of the short-term payoffs of hiring faculty and students, seeing them instead as long-term investments in their own future and in the strength of the national IT workforce.
3.6. Companies should hire for diversity and tap aggressively into groups that are under-represented in the IT profession.
This strategy will increase the candidate pool. It will also add diversity to the workforce that can be beneficial to the company in understanding customers, understanding computer applications, and obtaining a diversity of views in the workforce.
4. PROFESSIONAL SOCIETIES
We believe that there is a great opportunity for the professional societies to provide additional, much needed services to the professional community. This may serve not only their members, but the societies themselves by building up their membership rosters.
4.1. The professional societies should provide greater assistance in the retraining and continuing education of IT professionals.
The formal education an IT worker receives in college (and graduate school) provides adequate background preparation for the job for perhaps only two to three years. It is increasingly apparent that IT workers need to be engaged in a continuous process of education, and that it may be necessary to undertake major retraining more often. The professional societies have given some attention to these issues in their continuing education programs. They should take an even more active role in assuring that their members have good opportunities for continuous retraining.
4.2. The professional societies should take a more proactive role in the certification of IT professionals.
As jobs and the requisite skill sets change rapidly in the IT field, it is difficult for any worker to know which of his or her skills is adequate and which need to be brushed up. As the training opportunities multiply, workers are at a loss to know which ones are appropriate for them. If the professional societies can provide certification standards, workers can assess their own skills and seek out appropriate training, and employers can determine if applicants and employees are well qualified to carry out specific IT jobs.
4.3. Professional societies should continue to play a strong role in curriculum development.
For more than thirty years, the computing professional societies have played an important role in developing and publicizing model curricula in IT-related fields. This is one of the most important tasks they can carry out in the future. In developing these curricula, the professional societies should listen to the needs and expectations of employers as well as of suppliers. Given the rapid pace at which information technology is being developed, and at which knowledge becomes obsolete, it is important to develop model curricula that are designed for change. What is needed are curricula that can accommodate small modifications on a regular basis, rather than curricula that are expected to stand without revision for many years. One place where the professional societies can be especially helpful is in developing model curricula for associate degree programs, and in particular in setting minimal standards and procedures for a two-year college that wants to adopt a curriculum developed by one of the technology vendors. Attention should also be given to curricula for professional master's programs and to post-baccalaureate certificate programs in specific technical areas such as bioinformatics or network administration.
4.4. The professional societies should take considerably greater interest in non-degree programs that train IT professionals.
Most model curricula and accreditation of IT training offered by the professional societies are directed at formal degree programs offered by traditional colleges and universities. The fastest growing segment of IT training, however, is that of the non-degree programs offered by two- and four-year colleges and universities, as well as by for-profit training companies, individual consultants, and the companies themselves. These include short courses, certificate programs, distance learning programs, and other kinds of training. Because there are currently no guidelines, these are caveat emptor purchases, both for the students themselves (who are often members of these professional societies) and for the companies that often pay for their workers to attend. The professional societies could take a major role in setting standards and accrediting programs. Formal continuing professional education programs of the type used in K-12 teacher training and in the medical and legal professions may also be helpful.
4.5. The various IT professional societies should communicate, cooperate, and collaborate more with one another on issues of worker supply and demand.
As the IT field broadens, the number of professional societies dedicated to information technology grows. There are at least twenty IT-related disciplines taught in U.S. universities today. Many of them have at least one professional society representing them. Many of these societies are focused on a particular aspect of information technology. Several societies, seemingly independently of one another, were already working on issues related to IT workers and training programs when this study began. There is no single overarching society for the entire IT field, nor it does appear that one will be formed anytime soon. Absent such a society, it is important that the existing societies communicate with one another and collaborate, or at least cooperate, on study groups, model curricula, and accreditation. It may even be desirable to form a loose federation of IT-related societies for this purpose. The Computing Research Association has taken first, preliminary steps in this direction through its annual computing leadership summit.
5.1. Workers should recognize that they must take responsibility for remaining individually competitive.
The United States is a free and mostly unregulated market in which companies do not hesitate to lay off even good workers if they do not have the currently needed skills. This means that employees must plan to be flexible and not view as a failure a need to change jobs or return for further education in the middle of their career. Workers should be careful to choose jobs so that they broaden and update their skills, and they should be open to learning.
5.2. Individuals must commit themselves to life-long learning in order to remain technically current and competitive.
There are many ways in which an individual IT worker can obtain this training, such as college and university courses, lectures, seminars, and self-study. The individual worker should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the employer and should also personally seek out other opportunities. IT workers who become complacent about their knowledge and skills can become obsolescent in as little as two years. The professional societies can be a good source of information about what knowledge and skills are in demand, and they may even be able to provide them or point to reliable providers.
5.3. Individuals should do their part to see that people with appropriate skills enter the IT workforce.
People choose an occupation in large part because of personal contacts they have had-the strong teacher, the knowledgeable and fair supervisor, the caring colleague. Individuals can attract people with good skills to IT careers by encouraging IT as a career, by serving as a mentor to students or less experienced employees, by advising people on their training and career decisions, and by serving as a good role model.
5.4. Individuals should help to build up the IT profession through its professional organizations.
The IT profession is much stronger because of its professional societies, its university training programs, and the public and private organizations that look out for its well-being. Members of the profession should be good citizens by offering to serve on national committees, review proposals, volunteer to participate in professional society activities, lecture or teach and the local college, and do other volunteer and paid efforts that strengthen these professional organizations.
Copyright © 2004 Computing Research Association. All Rights Reserved. Questions? E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Document last modified on Wednesday, 04-Apr-2012 06:51:20 PDT.