August 2011 Archives

Young people need education in IT career options

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As this month's IT-related GCSE and A-level student numbers fell for another year, the common viewpoint emerging from the IT industry is that young people simply don't know what they're missing in the IT sector.

As IBM's HR vice president told Computer Weekly, a lack of suitable candidates meant 200 out of a 1000 jobs created for young people were left unfilled.

Matthew Poyiadgi, european vice president of CompTIA, believes this is because young people are simply not aware of the career options available to them in the IT sector. 

Oracle believes the skills shortage places greater emphasis on employers to attract and retain young employees.

The IT Olympics: Can the UK win gold in network support?

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Forget the 100 meters, javelin and even synchronised swimming, the UK is pinning its hopes on IT network support for a gold medal this year.

The UK is competing at the WorldSkills London event in October. WorldSkills London 2011 is the world's biggest international skills competition, covering hairdressing to stone-masonry to ICT skills.

UK network support competitor, 20-year-old Matt Mack, is currently studying for a higher degree in engineering at the University of Bedfordshire.

Matthew Mack IT PC Network Support_small.jpg

Mack won gold medal in the WorldSkills UK Microsoft Network Administrator competition in 2010 and is currently training twice a week for over five hours a day to compete again this year.

Competitors complete an average of 100 hours of training after being chosen through a rigorous selection process. 

Over four days of the competition, Mack will have to set up complex networks from scratch in an allocated amount of time, without internet access or reference books - that means learning all the short-term commands and staying calm. He'll be using Cisco, Microsoft and open source technologies.

Part of the training includes techniques for managing pressure from organisation, Brathay Trust.

Young talent let down by education

Mack set up his own IT company called for web design and hosting at the age of 11, making the company limited when he was 13. He now has over 450 clients, including Cisco, for his Networks Connections business. 

He said he saw a technician setting up a network in his Dad's new office and thought "I can do that". And did.

Despite showing an enthusiasm and aptitude for IT at a young age, he felt let down by his IT education. The IT courses at school didn't provide the breadth or depth he needed, and simply focused on spreadsheets and word processing instead.

Mack says he recently received an email from a teacher at his old school, apologising for the lack of support he received.

"When I logged on at school, teachers' alarms bells went off. They were intimidated I could get into school servers," says Mack.

John O'Neill, deputy head of computing & IT at Barnfield College and Mack's training manager believes young people's talent needs to be channeled by educating about the career opportunities in the IT sector. 

"The problem is we're dealing with digital natives. They're not coming along to do the basics. We need to make sure we can show them a career path," he says.  

O'Neill previously worked for BT and later set up his own company providing networking services. When he struggled to hire young, skilled engineers for his own business, he decided to go into teaching to address the shortage of young people in the sector.

He predicts the training Mack will receive is equivalent of £30,000 of QA Training qualifications an employer would provide.

He adds that it's rare to find talent like Mack's. To demonstrate the complexity of the task at hand, I had a go at setting up a simple local area network (LAN) using Cisco Packet Tracer - under O'Neill's supervision. 

My feeble attempt to understand network addresses, connecting cables, subnet masks, packet loss and configure a gateway didn't qualify me to join the network support elite. Although it did amuse Mack. Maybe next year?

WorldSkills will take place at ExCeL London between 5-8 October.

How students can bridge the IT information gap

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In this guest blog post, Philippa Snare, technical sales and marketing director at Microsoft UK discusses why young people today are ideally placed to develop a rewarding career in IT.

In my opinion there's no doubt that the technical knowledge of this generation of school leavers and university students is above and beyond previous peer groups. Being a student and graduate means you are now more connected and have more choices of communication than ever before; keeping up to date with vast circles of friends and family across boundaries is now part of how you live. However, it's just as essential that as a student you posses other skills, such as professional communications, management and leadership, as well as having an understanding of how these work in practice.

With intense competition for the top entry-level jobs in the industry, it's also important that as a school and university leaver you give yourself the best chance to get the job you want. I know from experience there are many ways students can do this. For example, proactively gaining extracurricular skill-sets through programmes such as Microsoft's Imagine Cup, where school students around the world are given the opportunity to use technology to help solve global challenges and make a difference in the world. Doing an internship is also a fantastic way you can make yourself stand out and break into the industry.

Traditionally it has been difficult to find internships with top companies. But there are now a variety of organisations, including Microsoft with our Young Britain Works initiative, who offer help to find work experience to develop the skills needed to secure your first job.  

Being a student today means social media is probably engrained into your life. So why not use it to start networking and finding conversations that will help you get into the industry? Following IT companies and people in technology on Twitter and connecting with key IT people and joining technology groups - like the Microsoft Young Britain Works group - on LinkedIn, will help you gain invaluable insight into the industry.

It's up to students to empower themselves by proactively looking for opportunities to gain the experiences and knowledge required to succeed in the industry.  By doing this, you will start developing the right skills, building on your strengths and giving yourself the best start in your IT career.

Read more IT Works articles here >>

Why Information Technology is a great choice of career

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The number of new recruits in IT has been in decline for some years and there is no indication this year will be any different. But in the UK, one in 20 people work in IT and unemployment for IT staff has now dropped to 3.1%, compared to 8.3% for the overall workforce. Four out of five jobs require IT skills. Unemployment is rising and yet there is still an IT skills shortage, says Gordon Frazer, UK managing director of Microsoft.

So why not consider a career in IT?

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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