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AN ONGOING EDUCATION

01 Mar 2010
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What is the biggest gap in IT skills at present in New Zealand? In a few words, a lack of certification in the software employees are engaged with. New Zealand corporate entities are reluctant to put certification programmes in place for their employees. The recession has, for obvious reasons, not helped, but what managers need to realise is that without the basic certification qualification employees are not able to easily maintain the up-skilling required when software changes are made or new versions are released. The trend is to cherry-pick a module of a certification qualification because that is what is needed now. This is a very short-sighted policy, as sooner or later the software changes are made and the employee is automatically out of date. What are the most sought-after IT skills in IT positions these days? In terms of everyday software use, Microsoft Excel is still the most popular and sought-after software skill, followed closely by graphic skills such as Adobe and Microsoft Access. How have these changed? This software has changed, or rather evolved over time, and contains more and more features. The reason employees should be up-skilled is based on the premise that until they attend an up-skilling course they do not realise how much they don’t know about the updated software and how these changes can play a big part in improving their productivity. What sorts of skills are required by managers of an IT department, or a branch of a department? All employees need to be skilled in the use of basic user software such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Managers of any organisation should be similarly skilled, or even better be fully certified with, for example, the Microsoft MCAS (Microsoft Certified Applications Specialist) certification so they are in a position to approve beneficial training to their staff. Do you think enough CIOs or IT decision makers do management training or attend courses? They appear not to do so. CIOs are not often seen on training or certification courses. They may well keep updated by doing online courses or conducting in-house training. Management training is definitely required throughout the IT industry to the point where some training organisations are introducing customised courses that accommodate IT and management skills. Do you think that middle to senior management are skilled enough in the IT applications they use, and if not, who should be encouraging them to up-skill? There is a gap in the market where all middle and senior management in most large organisations have fallen behind in keeping themselves up to date with the software technology that their organisation has adopted. For some reason, most middle and upper management seem reluctant to put themselves through any form of up-skilling, perhaps because they do not want to be seen as having a weakness in their management skills. This attitude is unfortunate, as those engaged in the IT industry have to maintain a strict regime if up-skilling themselves, otherwise they automatically fall behind. Is it more important to have business skills or computer skills as a CIO? At the senior level, CIOs and other managers need to have well-rounded qualifications, not only in IT but in management skills as well.