SACLA'16 ICT Skills Shortage Workshop
Skills Workshop 5 July 2016
Theme: Tackling the ICT skills shortage through contributions to developing skills capacity alongside universities
The Joburg Centre for Software Engineering at Wits University (JCSE) hosted a workshop prior to the opening of SACLA’16 (the 45 Annual Conference of the Southern Africa Computer Lecturers Association - http://sacla.cs.up.ac.za/ ) at Cullinan Diamond Lodge.
Explaining the theme and the agenda. Highlighting issues from 2016 JCSE ICT Skills Survey Report
Xoliswa Ngxanga and Simphiwe
High school introduction – what is covered and how one participant benefited
Post-graduate studies combined with soft skills and project experience – how one participant benefited
John Goble and Jacqueline Katane
The benefits of corporate social responsibility partnerships to add skills and enable academic progression
Career enhancement through targeted learning programmes, adding qualifications to experience, broadening thinking
Adding value in the C-suite for both aspiring and practising CIOs
The importance of an international connection, as illustrated by the current collaboration with MIT in June/July 2016
Tony Parry (IITPSA)
The local and global benefits of recognition as a professional practitioner
Posing key questions to delegates about their experiences, examining what are the successful ingredients for a university-linked skills development cluster, asking how to replicate and create the bridges between academia, business, government and communities
The JCSE is in its 12th year as a Centre at Wits University and has developed a number of programmes and activities that contribute to skills development in the ICT sector. The JCSE “team” (supported by several of the beneficiaries) presented the six pillars of those initiatives, as outlined in the table above, to illustrate concepts and opportunities for other groups.
Prof Barry Dwolatzky, the Director of the JCSE, facilitated a discussion with the SACLA delegates and the JCSE participants. SACLA delegates represented the Universities of Pretoria, Free State, Cape Town and Johannesburg, and UNISA.
Prof Barry gave the historical background of the SAITIS (South African IT Industry Strategy) Project at the end of the 90s and noted that the JCSE was one of the responses to the needs identified by that project, which included cost of bandwidth, skills output and transformation. He then proposed examining three topics:
- Is filling the skills gap in this way the job of a university?
- How important is professionalism?
- How do we create effective partnerships?
Delegates agreed there is a role for universities to take the IT message to schools and noted the success of initiatives such as the MAD Challenge (UP) apps competition and the Computer Apps Olympiad (UCT). A frequent comment is the demand on the limited time of academics for these off-campus activities, suggesting the need to recruit more volunteers to take up the duties of mentoring and promoting IT in schools.
It was noted that the message must show that IT is more than programming, that black and female pupils should be encouraged to take an interest in IT and that the IT sector has as much potential as accounting or engineering.
Noted that anyone wanting copy of the JCSE’s ImpaCT poster should contact email@example.com.
UCT’s success with on-line short courses and diploma courses was noted, as well as their part-time offerings for post-grads.
Prof Barry advised that the JCSE was self-funding and generated revenues from industry, government and other agencies/sources to sustain its operations.
The discussion on professionalism covered the roles of SAICSIT and SACLA and the certification of practitioners. It was noted that The British Computer Society’s CITP was well known. IITPSA is promoting the value of its PMIITPSA designation.
The professional bodies have a role in the linkage between industry and academia, promoting funding for academic projects and generating content for academic programmes. It was noted that in Canada, the relationships focus on cooperatives, internships and co-funding.
It was also noted that certifications are very important in the North American markets. CIPS (the Canadian Information Processing Society) had offered good Project Management courses but were less effective in promoting the value of membership.
The group agreed that there was a significant opportunity for IITPSA to spearhead the lobby for better recognition of the CS/IT disciplines in the new Higher Education funding model and Tony Parry (IITPSA CEO) agreed to take this forward.
The delegates felt that more could be done to harness the value of partnerships. Although there are industry advisory boards, work integrated learning sessions and memoranda of agreement, their implementation can be messy and is often personality-driven. The point was made that industry is too ready to remove the research skills from academia and does too little to replenish the pool.
Prof Andre Calitz advised that NMU has 35 industry partners and is successful in carrying out experimental research for companies like SAP and Syspro.
Delegates agreed that there are opportunities to develop alternative platforms and fora to enhance cooperation between academia and other partners.
Adrian Schofield reminded delegates that the imminent finalisation of the revised B-BBEE Codes of Good Practice for the ICT Sector would lead to increased funding by measured entities of skills and enterprise development initiatives. Universities are well-placed to provide services in this regard.
The workshop concluded with agreement that the views exchanged were valuable and there would be follow up of the opportunities identified.
6 July 2016