Information and Communications Technology (ICT) job numbers have doubled from around 175,000 in 1999 to an expected 350,000 by 2015, while national applications for tertiary studies in ICT have dropped approximately 60% in the same time period. This is due to misconceptions about the ICT industry which are resulting in a lack of student interest in studying ICT and STEM in general. The flow-on effects include: a skills gap, youth unemployment and missed economic opportunities for Australia.
The ICT skills shortage is not isolated to Australia. The issue is a global one in which there is intensifying competition to attract relevant skills. In other words, reliance on skilled migration programs – as limited as they are - is not sustainable.
To help address such issues the Australian Government Department of Communications has funded the Digital Careers program. The program has three (3) key focus areas:
* Provide professional development opportunities and resources for teachers.
* Lead, participate in and support events and activities which map to the Australian Curriculum and are focussed on broadening and deepening student engagement with ICT.
* Focus on improving awareness and promotion of the diversity of ICT careers.
Specifically for the teaching community Digital Careers is developing:
* State/Territory based Educator Advisory Committees.
* Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC).
* ICT Professionals in Schools: Strategic partnership with CSIRO to help connect to industry expertise.
* Australia-wide Activities Map to provide a snapshot of opportunities for students including:
- Bebras: a free online challenge designed to promote Computational Thinking among primary and secondary students. Bebras is an international activity with more and more countries involved (>35) and attracts many schools, teachers, and students – both girls and boys. (600,000). Bebras started in Lithuania in 2004. Bebras is the Lithuanian word for “Beaver”. It has been designed based on the Australian Math Kangaroo Contest. It is being piloted in Australia in 2013.
- Young ICT Explorers: a competition designed to encourage school students to create their best ICT-related projects. Entry is free and the competition’s alignment with the school curriculum enables students to apply what they learn in their ICT classroom to develop a project. At the judging event, students present their project to a judging panel of academia, industry partners and ICT professionals. Each project is assessed on the criteria of creativity, uniqueness, quality, level of difficulty and project documentation.
This presentation will highlight the program and how it can provide additional resources to the teaching community.