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ICT Trends: Tertiaries and App Development

Garry Roberton, Senior Lecturer at Wintec. 09 May 2012, 10:57 am
ICT Trends: Tertiaries and App Development

Mobile Apps - how are tertiaries responding?

In my last Newsline article I posed the following questions, in response to Juha Saarinen's articleabout the apps economy;

  • Should tertiary institutes be acknowledging the App Economy by way of offering courses and qualifications centered on app development and/or are they already on the front foot?
  • What programming languages are they offering - popular commercial languages that support the development of mobile apps?
  • How agile are ITPs [Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics] in responding to the rapid developments in ICT?

A short survey was emailed out to the Computing/IT schools/departments of all Institutes of Technology and Polytechs (ITPs) who are members of CITRENZ [Computing & Information Technology Research & Education NZ]. It would be interesting to repeat the exercise through the University sector as well, but this serves as a good barometer.

Nine out of the 17 ITPs (53%), which included five of the larger North and South Island institutes, responded to the key question; are ITPs/your institutes responding to this [apparent] growing demand by providing education/training opportunities within the range of ICT qualifications that you offer?

I'm pleased to report that almost all (90%) of the ITPs who replied are currently:

  • Offering programming courses/papers that include the appropriate/relevant languages for developing mobile apps and/or
  • Being encouraged to incorporate mobile apps courses/papers in their qualifications by their local industry advisory members
  • Supporting degree students in their final year of study who choose to develop mobile apps for their capstone projects, with some being successfully deployed, as referred to in the following publications;

It is very encouraging to learn that students, with strong academic support, are choosing to develop mobile apps for deployment across all of the major platforms including iOS, Android, Windows 6/7, Blackberry, Nokia and Mobile Web Apps. 

It would also appear that the needs of the ICT industry are being addressed throughout NZ, with tertiaries producing suitably skilled and knowledgeable graduates focused on areas in demand.

An example advertisement:

Mobile Apps Developer - "Our Auckland based International Client, produces a product suite to include windows client, web and mobile applications for the entertainment sector. Mobile applications include IOS, Android, Windows Mobile and mobile web apps. They are interested in future developments with Windows Phone 7 and Metro apps, and on occasion it will include development on other web products."

A search of Seek ICT job adverts using mobile applications as the filter resulted in 130 adverts, an 8% increase on a month ago.

Comparison of NZ Roles Advertised on Seek in March 2012

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Distribution of Mobile App Seek ICT Adverts by Region

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Advertised demand for Java and PHP developers continues to dominate Seek ICT job adverts, together with other popular mobile apps languages, .Net and C#.

Ruby [on Rails], increased advertised job market share by 43% on last month.

Java & PHP Developers in Demand [March 2012]

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Current Seek ICT Job Advert Trends

Job adverts for the whole of NZ are up by six per cent for March on the same time last year.

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The New Zealand ICT industry continues to face major challenges in finding suitable candidates to fill the advertised demand, due to:

  • A well-publicized continuing decline in ICT-related tertiary enrolments
  • Accelerating technological developments; e.g. associated with cloud computing and mobile devices, fuelling demand for increasingly 'agile' employees
  • A fall in the number of people admitted to NZ under the DoL Essential Skills Policy, down three per cent in 2010/11.

The decline in tertiary enrolments is also very apparent in the UK. Extracts from a Techrepublic article published this month, entitled "How to solve the tech skills crisis? Make IT cool again" emphasise the extent of the problem:

  • eSkills estimates the UK will need an additional 110,000 new IT workers to enter the workforce each year
  • Overall the number of applicants to computing courses in the UK is only about one third of the new intake that the IT industry needs
  • The disparity between supply and demand looks set to continue, with the proportion of new jobs in the IT sector growing nearly five times faster than the UK average

Working towards solving NZ's ICT Skills Shortage

One of the main reasons for the disparity between supply and demand, according to Paul Coby (chairman of the CIO board of the IT skills body eSkills UK), is that many pupils between the ages of 11 and 16 are turned off IT. He believes this is thanks to a secondary school curriculum that teaches children general computing skills that many find boring.

To counter this eSkills is partnering with industry to develop an IT GCSE that will focus on areas such as programming, games design and web and mobile app development.

Sounds very familiar, doesn't it?

The NZCS supported a similar initiative here in NZ that grew out of a 2008 NZCS report critical of the existing NCEA achievement standards. The resulting computing achievement standards, levels 1 to 3, are in the process of being implemented in NZ secondary schools - another example of NZ leading the way globally.

In addition, a number of significant initiatives are planned for 2012. The most relevant of these is encapsulated in the following extracts from the NZCS February Newsline written by NZCS CEO Paul Matthews:

  • I'm really excited to say that in 2012 we'll be finally launching the full significant grass roots initiative ICT-Connect, designed to bridge that gap and connect school students and teachers with IT professionals and our great industry
  • The programme is delivered via a series of talks by IT Professionals in what will eventually be hundreds of schools across New Zealand, introducing young minds to what ICT really is and the truly exciting opportunities present for those that choose a future in it.

"From small beginnings come great things" [Proverb quote]

More information

Garry also produces a monthly report containing statistics and facts related to ICT enrolments and job trends which can be accessed on the CITRENZ web site.

Garry Roberton is a Senior Lecturer with the School of IT at Wintec and Executive Board Member and Fellow of CITRENZ.


Comments

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Ken Bateman 12 May 2012, 9:13 am

My experience says that Polytech's are not that agile with new technology and app languages.

I recently completed a computing degree (2008 9 & 10) at the local polytech and was awarded for highest marks, but after 104 applications I wasn't able to land a job in the IT sector!

While studying I was a part time tutor/lecturer and I know that tutors/lecturers are encouraged to do research to further their skills, but as a student I didn't see any evidence of new software languages or IDE's. The computers were still XP software even after Win7 had been out for years, and there were no software courses for C++ or J2EE. I'm fairly sure even now they still don't have courses for mobile aps!


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