Thursday, 5th February, 2015

ICT skills survey: Business leaders encourage secondary schools to lift their game ...

Along with basic Maths and English, a working knowledge of ICT is now essential for getting a job, say Auckland business leaders.

But a survey of Auckland secondary schools late last year found that fewer than 6% of pupils could gain a qualification to show a prospective employer that they are ‘job ready’ school leavers equipped with ICT skills suitable for taking up a job.

The Auckland Business Leaders Group want quick action to ensure ICT (short for Information Communications Technology) and digital literacy is taught as an independent subject in secondary schools to the same extent as Maths and English is.

ICT skills are part of every kind of job – from office, retailing to factory work. Currently there are some 1500 ICT-specialist job vacancies in Auckland, with demand for ICT skills continuing to outstrip supply. These vacancies range from highly skilled and often well-paid areas such as programme writing and website creation, to basic but critical roles involving word processing, data entry and logistics planning.

“Confident, critical and creative use of ICT skills is now an essential passport for getting a job as reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Auckland Business Leaders Group chairman, Michael Barnett.

“If ICT skills were taught independently to the same extent as other core subjects it would enable more school leavers to graduate ‘job ready’ with the knowledge, skills and digital literacy needed to actively participate immediately in Auckland’s rapidly changing economy.

“As in many trades, there is the opportunity to create a direct pipeline between high schools and employment for ICT skilled school leavers – possibly to take on ICT apprenticeships in Auckland firms,” he said.

Equally, ICT skills are basic to moving on to tertiary education, and critical to enabling New Zealand’s international reputation as a highly innovative, inventive population. “Our businesses are seeking to accelerate the incorporation of new manufacturing and technology approaches in many fields – from health, environmental, engineering, transport logistics and services.

“Through a programme of ICT subjects, our secondary schools should be the nursery for capturing the excitement and opportunity for students to engage early in helping to convert New Zealand’s innovative and creative ideas into successful ventures.”

Survey findings

The survey was conducted in September/ October with 58 secondary schools responding with a total roll of just over 61,000 pupils.

While about 80% of the schools indicated that they offer courses leading to an ICT qualification (mainly NCEA L2 & L3) just under 6% of pupils (3613 of the 61,000) will this year gain a qualification (assuming they all pass the course).

The majority of the schools that offer ICT as a subject at NCEA L2 & L3 indicated that it was restricted mainly to junior school years and/or low ability classes and regarded as an easy option. One respondent commented: “For many years ICT was a ‘dumping ground’ for low level achievers, but in recent years it’s started to change.”

A number of schools indicated that they were seeking resources (funding and qualified teachers) to give ICT subjects greater status.

Of the 14% of school respondents that don’t teach ICT qualification subjects, main reasons given were resourcing and lack of understanding by senior management.

Other findings included:

  • Overwhelming agreement (94%) that ICT should be taught as an independent subject and be an identifiable part of the school curriculum.
  • Strong agreement (88%) that teacher training should include ICT and digital literacy as a core requirement.

Mr Barnett said that in today’s technology-based, knowledge-led economy it was logical that our secondary schools provide students the opportunity to gain a school-leaving qualification that showed competence in ICT and digital literacy.

“Whether heading direct into employment or on to tertiary education, all school-leavers should have the opportunity to include an ICT qualification in their school-leaving passport. I can see the day when universities will require all entrants to demonstrate ICT competency as a condition of entry,” he concluded.

For more information contact Michael Barnett, mobile: 0275 631 150.
Michael Barnett, Chief Executive, Auckland Chamber of Commerce.