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"I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path. You must climb towards the Truth. It cannot be 'stepped down' or organized for you." - author: Jiddu Krishnamurthi

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

IT Professionals in MRU

Following a recent article that was published on the fact that Mauritius lacks qualified IT professionals; I wish to bring forward a few suggestions that could maybe help solving this issue.

The Minister of Information Technology correctly points out that there is a lack in terms of the quality of graduates that the universities in Mauritius produces and what the market demands. It is good to know where a problem lies but nothing would change if no action is envisaged to solve this problem. Also it should be noted that the 2 main tertiary institutions in Mauritius are owned by the government itself. So instead of doing a “constat des choses” it would have been better to take actions.

It is recommended that students at university level should have a one year industrial attachment. The problem is that we don’t currently have enough companies that can afford to provide industrial attachment. The main reason for their reluctance being that inexperienced people tend to slow down the already running processes in a company. Having a trainee is a win-win situation; the company needs to benefit from the trainee as well as the trainee acquiring hands on practical experience. But if the trainee is not at the required level then there is no point in doing this. This is the case for most of the IT companies in Mauritius.

So going back to the root of the problem again, universities should be the ones that initiate changes and to do this they should focus more on the quality of the graduates that they deliver to the working force rather that focussing on how to be more profitable or how to acquire more students. The universities being a supplier and the working job market being the consumer, they should talk to potential employers to know what is lacking and produce what is really required. Holding working sessions between students and employers does not really change anything.

Identifying who has the skills required to be a good IT professional and coaching those that can develop these skills is an essential step in producing high quality graduates. One may not have the entry requirements for a computer science course at a university or even good results when graduating but still could have a good problem solving attitude. Those who are academically good do not necessarily become good IT professionals. Universities should aim to reconsider how they select candidates for their IT courses. A logical entry exam would be the best way at identifying candidates for such courses. If industries are doing such tests before recruitment why not identifying brilliant people at a lower level, before they even enter a course? Courses could also be more technical than academic, technical institutions have been successfully training people that can be injected directly into the job market. Is this not where the solution is for such a technical job as IT? Seeing the IT field as a technical sector could maybe help universities achieve a higher quality.

Promoting call centres in Mauritius can be a good thing for employment but it should be pointed out that this is only an alternative to those who are not qualified enough to join the IT sector directly. At no point in time should HSC holders be encouraged to work in call centres to the detriment of pursuing their studies at tertiary level. Producing a large pool of IT professionals does not mean that we should employ 15000 people in call centres. Maybe we should note the fact that IT professionals do not include call centre staffs. We incorrectly tend to associate people working in call centres and telemarketing as being IT professionals. Maybe in terms of the Mauritian legislation we all fall under the ICT act, but correction should be made where appropriate. IT literate does not mean IT professional. For the sake of clarity, the definition of an IT professional at the lowest level is:

A person who can undertake programming under general direction and a variety of information technology work under routine direction. The work involves the application of knowledge of information technology and information technology techniques and principles and requires initiative and judgement. Where programming is the process of writing a program using a programming language.

As the level vary, some may specialise in areas such as networking, business processes and telecommunication services among others.


Anonymous raj said...

Like the dotcom boom era in the late 90's, too many people have embarked on IT courses because they were told there'll be good job prospects. We have ended up with every IT educated person wanting to be a manager within a year from graduation. So you end up with an average programmer and an average manager.
What we really need is a change in student's mindset that they won't be spoonfed like in college. A hunger to learn and considering a problem as a challenge is the key to success.

27 November, 2006 21:55  

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