Monday, 9th February, 2015

Quick action is required to elevate ICT to the same status as Maths and English on the secondary school curriculum, say Auckland business leaders.

A working knowledge of ICT is now essential for getting a job, but thousands of school leavers are missing out because they haven’t been taught ICT basics and don’t have a qualification they could show a prospective employer, notes Auckland Business Leaders Group chairman, Michael Barnett.

A survey of Auckland secondary schools late last year found that fewer than 6% of pupils (or 3613 of the 61,000 students in the survey) gained a qualification showing they were equipped with ICT (short for Information Communications Technology) and digital literacy skills suitable for taking up a job.

The Auckland Business Leaders Group are seeking urgent 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.

Currently there are at least 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.

“ICT skills are part of every kind of job – from office, retailing to factory work. Confident, critical and creative use of ICT skills is now an essential passport for getting a job as reading, writing and arithmetic,” said Mr Barnett.

“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.

Likewise, ICT skills are basic to moving on to tertiary education, and critical to enabling New Zealand’s international reputation as a highly innovative, inventive people.

“Many 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 teaching 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.”

“That situation has to end, and quickly,” said Mr Barnett. “Whether heading direct into employment or on to tertiary education, all school-leavers should have an ICT qualification. 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.