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The BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, has launched a Register for IT Technicians (RITTech), a standard to recognise individuals with technical skills.
The register will act as accreditation for IT technical professionals and help employers to ensure they are employing people with the right skills for the job.
“IT underpins everything in modern society and it makes modern society work,” Richard Lester, director of the IT technician programme at BCS, said.
“It’s there to recognise there are people with the right behaviours, the right attitudes.”
Technicians can apply for a place on the register online by choosing a core technical area and completing an assessment, which is backed up up by a trusted party who is aware of the individual’s skill level.
If their application is accepted they will be added to the register and have the ability to update their core competencies as they learn more skills.
Registered technicians will have to be tested again after three years to ensure they still have the skill level needed to hold the accreditation.
More than 200 technicians have already joined the register, including individuals from IT disciplines in Microsoft, Waitrose and IBM.
Applicants must wait three months after a failed application before attempting to join the register again.
Industry level standards
Many industries – for example medicine, law and accountancy – have a basic level of accreditation that industry professionals cannot practice without, but the IT industry does not currently have this.
Paul Martynenko vice-president and technical executive, IBM Europe, RIITech will allow the IT industry to start building a new level of professionalism as, at some point in the future, there might have to be a licence to practice IT.
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“We’re at one of those interesting points in the industry where, as we move into the cognitive space, what we do really affects life,” Martynenko said.
“We’ll be producing systems which help doctors, which help lawyers and the people who have produced those have no personal accountability. It’s probably time that we did.”
Having a level of accreditation to aspire to may also encourage young people to consider an IT career early on, as it carves out a clearer career path in IT with something to aim for.
“We’ve got to broaden out at the earlier stages of education the interest in IT. Having a register creates a structure further up, that gives it a greater sense of achievement for those who are doing it – and career structure for those who are involved in it, and professionalism across the board. It just happens to make the whole career more attractive,” said Hugh Milward, director of corporate affairs at Microsoft.
Milward explained this is important throughout all levels of the industry, to give technical staff the recognition they need.
“It allows the workforce – the technicians themselves – to be recognised for the skillset that they have,” Milward said.
“It’s incredibly important to make sure that, when we’ve got these quality skills, they’re recognised and there’s a marketplace.”
Approval for apprentices
Jos Creese, president of the BCS, explained the register is also a great thing for apprentices, as the government and the industry realise the role is changing.
Creese said apprentices will learn many different skills and can be at different levels, and the RITTech can act as an indicator of a particular level of expertise following an apprenticeship.
“Apprenticeships are a great way of gaining experience, knowledge and being coached on the job. We know that. But the way in which apprenticeships have been defined is pretty narrow,” Creese said.
Creese said many mistake apprenticeships as an alternative to going to university, when the reality is that it is “a spectrum, from school leavers right up to postgraduates”.
“Where the register of IT technicians comes in is to support that. IT provides a structure for those who want that at a particular level which is the start of a professional career which complements very well with an apprenticeship scheme,” Creese said.
“It doesn’t have to be 'instead of', it can be part of it and one route you can go through.”
Women in the IT industry
Alongside a skills gap, the IT industry also has a lack of women entering the IT industry to help fill these empty positions.
One of the reasons cited for this is unconscious bias, where women are not selected for roles because the interviewer does not relate to them.
“I don’t think businesses are consciously not employing women IT professionals, I think they’re not applying in enough numbers in the first place,” Creese said.
Imposter syndrome is also a commonly cited factor, involving women not applying for jobs because they do not feel qualified, or feeling as though they are not properly performing their role despite having all the right skills.
“I work in a team of around 40 and I’m the only girl, bar the manager – but I don’t think that would hinder the way I answered the RIITech assessment questions, I still see myself as an equal to anyone else I work with who have the same skills,” said Emma Pople, technician for IBM.
Having the accreditation offered by the RIITech could also give women the confidence to apply for jobs they might not otherwise consider.
But Nicole Covey, also a technician at IBM, said getting more women into Stem subjects should start from the top, and encourage women to act as role models for young girls.
“Role models is the way forward to get more women in technology, there is a stigma that tech is for boys and geeks,” Covey said.
“When I was at college, everyone who came in to talk about technology was male, so we need to get role models out there for young girls.”