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Sorry State of IT Education: Readers Propose Fixes
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LawrenceGarvin
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LawrenceGarvin,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 3:38:35 PM
Re: Many nails hit on the head here
Now this part I do agree with. It was supposed to be for the purposes of filling a short-term skills crunch, and for whatever reason, not just IT, our entire educational system has let down a lot of scientific and technical fields... presumably now being rectified by our renewed focus on STEM education. (Provided we educate, and not just job train.)

Here's a motto I just thought up... "Education builds a career; job training pays the rent."

You offer a great comparison to nursing and teaching shortages.... perhaps, in some part, because both of those professions require degrees and occupational licensing, the educational system was the only available system to fill that gap. Unlike those professions, though, similar gateways do not exist for IT jobs, so an employer can take any person off the street who claims to have the requisite skills (or certification, as is often the case).

So ... which is the cause and effect here, may be the relevant question. Are employers continuing to rally the cry for immigrant workers, claiming they can't find qualified domestic workers, because our educational systems are, in fact, failing to deliver. Or is this purely an economic model where employers are undervaluing the actual skill sets required to perform a job, and no longer willing to pay what a high-quality college graduate should earn?

Also worthy of note, the economic motivations are not just related to immigrant workers who may be willing to work for significantly less, but it also applies to the work being outsourced to offshore service providers.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/6/2014 | 3:18:15 PM
Re: Many nails hit on the head here
Point taken but the increased use of H1-B for IT placements started in the early 90's to supposedly fill skill shortages.  The dynamics for the IT skill shortages are still at work after more than 20 years.  When we have shortages in other fields it doesn't take 20 years or more to fill them.  Teacher shortage? Nurse shortage? We don't use H1-B to fill them we use the educational system but not for IT.  There use to be an education department within most fortune 500 companies years ago.  It's been replaced by recruiters and H1-B applicants.
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 2:26:12 PM
More on IT certification mistakes
More good food for thought here. For more on the use  -- and misuse -- of IT certifications, see this recent column on luring IT security pros.

 
LawrenceGarvin
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LawrenceGarvin,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 1:57:20 PM
Re: IT Education vs Training
Just because you own a car doesn't mean you take mechanics classes so that you can maintain it - you outsource the maintenance.

A common challenge in this conversation is confusing the user with the professional.

I absolutely agree that I, as an automobile owner, will find benefit in "outsourcing" my automotive maintenance needs. The alternative being [a] doing it myself, or [b] hiring a personal automotive mechanic -- neither of which are economically viable solutions.

However... I still expect the mechanics who work for my chosen outsourced provider to have the skills necessary to perform their jobs. As I've commented elsewhere, if I take my SuperDuty Diesel Truck into an automotive shop and the mechanic/technician on duty can't figure out why it doesn't have spark plugs, we're all in a big heap of trouble.

The same analogy applies to IT. A computer USER... a business productivity worker... an information worker.. whatever you want to call them, has absolutely no need to understand the workings of the computer network. They click on an icon and magically the document gets transported from the disk drive of the server to the application on their desktop and the world is a great place for them to be.

But, if that event does not happen as expected, the Help Desk Operator on the other end of the phone call (email, IM, whatever) had better have a solid grasp of how networking works, from the server, through the switch, cabling, software, protocols, etc., all the way to the desktop, if they're going to be of any use to that user whatsoever. If the only thing that HDO can do is follow a pre-written diagnostic checklist and the problem is not one of those "pre-defined" situations, the problem doesn't get solved.

Now.... as an employer, I have a need to provide certain technology support services to my employees so they can deal with technology issues that fall outside the scope of their job duties. It's irrelevant whether I hire a full-time employee and put them at a desk in the workplace, or I higher a service-provider to take those calls. I still have the need, as a business owner, for exactly the same level of competence and service in meeting the needs of my staff. If the person tasked with solving that problem is incapable of solving the problem, I have a bigger problem than just the inability of my IT worker to perform the tasks of an IT worker: Now I also have an information worker who cannot perform their job either (through no fault of theirs).
LawrenceGarvin
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LawrenceGarvin,
User Rank: Author
5/6/2014 | 1:44:34 PM
Re: Many nails hit on the head here
I intentionally did not include the H1-B question. While it's certainly been mentioned, my personal opinion is that in most cases the mentions are a red-herring with respect to this conversation. The issue is not whether jobs are or are not available, or who's taking them; the issue is that the people that ARE being hired appear to be undertrained/undereducated, and the conversation is about how to solve that problem. From my perspective it's absolutely irrelevant what the immigration status of an employee is. Either they're qualified for the job, or not. Either the employer properly defined the job qualifications, or not. Ultimately it's about whether the employee can perform the tasks asked by the employer. If employees are leaving with corporate knowledge because they were short-term acquisitions in the first place, I submit it matters less what the immigration status was of the application, and more that the business simply failed to properly value the placement of that corporate knowledge. Shopping for talent just prior to an implementation is likely a fatal error of its own making. In fact, it doesn't take an H1-B visa for an employer to make that same mistake even with native-born employees.
Zman7
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Zman7,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 12:45:08 PM
IT Education vs Training
IMO, universities should stick to training. Why?  Anyone good enough to educate people about the strategic use of critical thinking in information systems is doing it in the private sector.  This critical thinking can't be taught in liberal arts classes either.  We have college grads that can't even complete a full sentence, let alone be expected to do any critical thinking.  Once someone has the basic training, they can observe critical thinking and learn it on the job.

Outsourcing is a decision by management to purposely avoid the overhead of an in-house department. IT and systems support is a commodity anymore.  Why should the company invest in something they can purchase more cheaply elsewhere?  Just because you own a car doesn't mean you take mechanics classes so that you can maintain it - you outsource the maintenance.

I also think that anyone selecting the IS/IT career path will find that it is indeed the path to a good living.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
5/6/2014 | 12:37:13 PM
Many nails hit on the head here
This follow-up is excellent, hitting on all the bad practices of businesses but still missed one, H1-B visas.  It's the grasshoppers verses ants scenario.  Growing and developing internal IT staff (either through internal training or external education) is the "ant" thing to do allowing long term survival.  Shopping for talent a few weeks or months prior to implementation is the "grasshopper" approach then calling on H1-B visas to "survive" every time actually jeopardizes long term survival.  
smartin230
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smartin230,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 11:51:35 AM
Getting closer
I think you are getting closer to the problem. The kind of skills needed for JOBS come from companies retaining and training employees, investing in them over time. This leads to company "knowledge". Cutting corners and employees ever economic downturn causes a loss of knowledge history and basically a way of doing things that can't be taught in schools without hands on experience . The kind of skills needed for leadership positions come from college education in critical thinking and problem solving.
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