The Australian Computer Society (ACS) believes the ICT skills shortage and falling enrolment rates in ICT courses threatens Australia's $100 billion digital economy.
An ACS submission to the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority’s paper, Draft Shape of the Australian Curriculum: Technologies, argues that the key to turning the situation around is to establish a national ICT education framework.
The submission states that university undergrads enrolled in IT degrees have declined by 50 per cent over the last 10 years. In the vocational training sector there has been a enrolment drop of 40 per cent during the same period, the submission states.
“In Australia, ICT skills shortages continued to grow by up to 14,000 extra ICT jobs in 2012 and 35,000 by 2014," ACS CEO Alan Patterson said in statement. "At the same time, curriculum initiatives in ICT at the secondary level have not gone far enough to encourage high-achieving students in Years 11 and 12 to study tertiary ICT courses or promote the discipline as a rewarding and vibrant career.”
The ACS believes that more needs to be done to attract bright students to the IT sector, as well as attract teachers qualified to teach ICT-related subjects.
Patterson believes a national framework at the school level should include several changes. For example, ICT should be recognised as a subject in its own right from kindergarten to year 12; a curriculum should be adopted which can be updated to reflect changes in ICT skills; there should be more support for ICT at the secondary school level from the government and businesses; and the Digital Technologies subject should be changed to Information and Communication Technologies to better reflect the ICT profession. In addition, the Digital Technologies subject is only mandatory until the end of year 8, but the ACS is in favour of extending this to year 10.
Patterson said that there needs to be more research to understand why more students are not choosing ICT careers despite the opportunities in the sector.
“Without skilled ICT workers, Australia’s ICT development and capability will erode, further limiting the opportunities for our youth to participate in the most vibrant sector of our economy,” he said.
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