“ICT Skills crisis is not a crisis at all”

This is according to Marius de Beer of Scrumsense, who presented the results of in-depth research relating to the skills crisis at the Third Software Engineering Colloquium, convened by the Cape IT Initiative (CITi) and the IEEE South Africa Chapter on 16 March 2010 in Cape Town.

His key finding was that all the elements we need to solve the skills crisis, already exists. “What we need is more exposure of these initiatives and more coordination and communication between the various role players,” he said.

His presentation formed part of a number of key action points that were discussed and agreed upon by the Colloquium.

The need for the Colloquium was driven by recognition that software engineers must be represented in the boardroom. Prof Nico Beute of IEEE’s Education Society Chapter commented, “Some of the outcomes the Colloquium seek is to create value through engineering, improve interaction with lawyers, accountants and senior managers, broaden the software community and remove barriers, improve professionalism, recognise excellence and make the South African software community a worthy investment project.”

The morning sessions were chaired by Professor Johannes Cronje, Dean of the Department of Design & Informatics at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) while the afternoon sessions were chaired by Associate Professor Sonia Berman, Head of the Computer Science Department at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

The welcoming address was delivered by Jo-Ann Johnston, the Chief Director: Trade and Sector Development, Provincial Government Western Cape. She highlighted the ICT industry as one of the top four priority industries in the Western Cape and asked the software industry where they needed government help.

“We will be taking the action points agreed out of the Colloquium up with Minister Alan Winde, MEC for Finance, Economic Development &Tourism for the Western Cape, to request assistance addressing a number of the issues that came out of the Colloquium,” said CITi Executive Director Jenny McKinnell.

Some of the other key action points as agreed by the Colloquium included CEO of KASE Consulting Roderick Lim Banda’s revised Hybrid Hollywood reference model as a potential way forward for developing and supporting the software eco-system in the Western Cape.

A proposal by McKinnell to develop an exhibition with related projects during the 32nd International Conference on Software Engineering later this year was also given the go-ahead.

Furthermore, Dr Joseph Balikuddembe’s, Systems Analyst Sanlam Personal Finance SPS-IT, idea that a Certification Forum be created to work towards the creation of a unifying professional certification programme for software engineers, was supported by the Colloquium and the creation of a working group under Balikuddembe was agreed upon.

Finally, after considerable debate, the Colloquium supported CTO of Korwe Software, Dr David Hislop’s suggestion to establish a working group who will be tasked with writing letters to key stakeholders and lobby for a programme of rewards and recognition of technical skills. “We want to recognise excellence in producing software,” he said.

The Colloquium was well-attended by over 140 representatives from the software industry, including software engineers, representatives from the City of Cape Town, Provincial Government, and the DTI, as well as academics and post-graduate students from various universities.

“The hard work starts now,” said McKinnell at the post-Colloquium cocktail party. “Next year this time I want to be able to report meaningful results that have been achieved across all the agenda items that were discussed at today’s Colloquium. For that reason, we will, as CITi, continue to support all the working groups and communicate their progress during the course of the year.”

In closing, CITi announced the launch of its “IT Heroes and Pioneers” campaign which aims to generate interest among learners and students in becoming technology entrepreneurs. The campaign is currently collating stories of successful entrepreneurs and pioneers, companies and locally developed innovations. The website for this initiative will go live at the end of March 2010.

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“ICT Skills crisis is not a crisis at all”