Three Ways National Governments Can And Should Improve IT Skills
Around the globe, commitment to IT skills development is gaining recognition as a key ingredient necessary to compete in world markets. Economic powerhouses such as Germany and Switzerland can attribute much of their success to their heavy investment in human capital, and early identification of the key skills that will produce tomorrow’s workforce. As well, a number of other countries across EMEA and the Americas are making progress with innovative government-supported educational initiatives and programs designed to develop skilled IT professionals.
Contrast this with the Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) region, which remains one of the main growth drivers of the world economy, accounting for about two-fifths of global economic growth. However, with China’s economy gradually slowing, APJ’s boom growth years are arguably waning. With this in mind, the need for further investment in IT has never been more apparent, yet across APJ, investment in developing skilled workers across IT and technology is looking increasingly bleak when compared to the commitment other regions are making.
In the UK for example, the government announced it would be scrapping the IT curriculum. In its place, they will introduce new computer science courses. The education minister blamed the previous government for dumbing down IT, suggesting that children are not learning technology skills in schools; they are merely learning how to operate a computer. The same government has unveiled £3.5m of funding aimed at developing the ‘Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science’, with 400 master teachers to pass on their skills and subject knowledge.
In Portugal, the creation of the ‘Plano Tecnológico’ plan has the overarching goal of building a knowledge-based society. As part of that plan, the government worked with public and private partners to develop an innovative educational technology program built on a unique, sustainable economic model that has generated €2.3 billion in economic activity, and features products and services now being exported to trading partners. All of these programs were a direct result of the government raising €460 million from a spectrum auction.
At a regional level, the EU’s Digital Agenda is underpinned by national digital agendas that have been in place for several years. As with other EU single market initiatives, the aim is to help all IT industry participants achieve the benefit of scale to compete in world markets, while also fostering innovation at the grassroots level and encouraging investment in developing skills for tomorrow’s workforce.
All of these examples illustrate what governments and councils can do to improve and encourage learning and development in IT. Clearly more needs to be done in APJ if we are to capitalize on the data science opportunity in the name of individual success and national economic stability. Here are my top three steps that governments across the region need to implement now:
- Develop strategic partnerships – with vendors and universities to ensure that the learning curriculum is in place to deliver a steady stream of job-ready IT skilled staff to local industry who can help organizations visualize and realize their potential. This can be done through awareness-building, for example, as well as by building a talent pool through scholarship endowments and incentives. Dell, for example, is partnering with local universities in Brazil to train professionals in analytics.
- Invest in upskilling business leaders – For IT skills to deliver strategic business value across an organization, senior leaders need to get up-to-speed. However, tearing C-level executives away from their core focus can be challenging. Thus, to encourage investment, governments should offer to fund or subsidize training to encourage organizations to build the appropriate leadership mind-set and skills to capitalize on these transformational initiatives for long-term business gain. Additionally, governments should create partnered programs or workshops for business leaders to learn and share in these forums.
- Invest in developing a local talent pool – There is certainly local appetite for technical education. As I wrote in my ‘How Asian universities can help build job-ready graduates with additional IT skills’ post, APJ is renowned for generating a high level of high quality STEM graduates. But many of these young people choose to study abroad, and a good proportion then choose to live outside APJ. Local governments need to do more to encourage our burgeoning young talent to remain closer to home to ensure we don’t lose them to the international job market. One way to do so is to provide grants and loans for students to take courses in key IT fields, including data science, at local educational institutions, as well as practical courses to acquire the job-ready skills in key technology platforms.
I welcome your thoughts as to what national Governments in APJ can, and should be doing to address the need for data science skills. Are there initiatives that you believe will support innovation and economic growth? Let me know in the Comments box below.