What to make of the apparent dichotomy between two items spotlighted by IT Business Edge blogger Michael Lindenberger?
Legislation that would "expand scholarships, stipends and training for science, technology and engineering teachers' workshops and master's degree programs" was recently approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, one of two bills that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says should help America maintain its status as a global innovator.
Yet a recent survey by e-Skills UK finds that British employers are increasingly unimpressed with technical degrees. While there are almost certainly some differences in the U.S. and UK markets, it does still strike me as a bit odd that the U.S. is seeking to pour money into tech education even as technical degrees appear to be losing their cachet with employers.
Companies seem to find business skills at least as important as -- if not more so than -- straight tech skills as qualifications for their IT employees. I think that a number of factors are at play here.
First, IT isn't as mysterious to most professional folks as it once was. My boss, who characterizes herself as a "non-techie," recently installed a wireless router in her home, ran her Tivo through it and got the necessary security systems for it up and running. Even doofuses like me can install software programs with a couple clicks of a mouse.
Also, I can't discount the impact of outsourcing. In the global economy, it's becoming easier all the time to find someone who can crank out code. But finding someone who can create code and lead a project team is another matter. The software-as-a-service delivery model has also made it easy for folks to buy hosted versions of business applications that can be successfully installed and maintained by relative "non-techies."
CIOs who want IT to be seen as a business enabler realize that they need staffers with business skills to help them fulfill that mandate.
Perhaps tech education simply hasn't kept up with the rapidly changing times. I'd like to see more programs like the Bachelor of Innovation offered at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs that emphasizes a cross-disciplinary relationship between business and engineering. "The goal is to get [students] to learn enough about areas outside of their own majors to better interact with team members," says a UCCS professor in an IT Business Edge interview.