The technology problem

As has been noted previously in this blog, there are differing opinions on the extent to which universities should develop education strategies to provide skills needed in the economy. Some of those who might be sceptical about such strategies argue that universities should not be vocational training institutions; some point out that we don’t really know what skills will be needed a few years from now, so that universities should not try to meet every passing request for specific skills training. Then again others will point out that shortages of people with particular degree qualifications will influence key corporate investment decisions; and this might suggest that universities should recognise the need for graduates in specific disciplines.

Ever since the dot.com bubble burst some 16 years ago, schools and parents have become cautious about advising your people to take degrees in subjects such as computing and software engineering. Over the past 10 years or so this has led to a growing number of vacancies in the IT industry in the United Kingdom and Ireland, seen as a key industry with the ability to secure economic growth. So it is being described as a matter of concern that the number of students applying to take relevant subjects continues to be lower than desired. This has recently been again reported as a serious problem in Ireland, and in England the same problem is thought to be growing due to the inadequate number of GCSE pupils taking computing classes in schools.

It is of course right that universities must play a longer game and that they cannot just redirect their resources to meet changing demands of industry or government. General and transferable soft skills will always remain important. But ever since universities initiated what are essentially vocational disciplines – such as engineering, accounting, law, and so forth – they cannot easily suggest that equipping students with profession-specific skills is not part of their mission. But then again, universities cannot meet these demands if pupils leave schools not well prepared for courses that address society’s specific needs. Solving this problem will need intervention much earlier in the education system.

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2 Comments on “The technology problem”

  1. Greg Foley Says:

    I wouldn’t accept that institutions are dragging their heals. It’s just that we’re pretty sceptical about pronouncements from industry and business. For example, it is common in Ireland to hear business leaders (and academics) bang on about the shortage of STEM graduates. Yet if you look at HEA survey data, only about 40% of science graduates will find employment straight after college.

    https://educationandstuff.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/the-skills-shortage-paradox/

  2. Vince Says:

    The problem isn’t that they train to a job, but that they expect the student to repeat when that job is sloughed off the industries requirement. Meaning that industry has refused to accept that training has or should have any cost to them whatsoever. They have passed it to the State, and now the State is passing it to the Student. A queer[arch usage] form of slavery.


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