Saturday, May 25, 2024

Aligning Computer Professional Skills With the Nation's Needs

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society (ACS), Canberra Branch Hub, where I am taking part in an ACS Professional Standards Board meeting. ACS sets the standards for the education of computer professionals in Australia, and in conjunction with sister societies, world wide. In the usual bureaucratic processes of being on any committee, it is easy to forget how important the work is. We need to ensure what Australian universities and vocational institutions teach is what industry needs, and aligns with international standards. We also need to ensure that working professionals can keep up with developments in the industry, either individually or through their employer. All of this has to be acceptable to Australian governments, and industry. 

Being professionals, we first try to find an existing standard, but often have to enhance, or on occasion, write the standard from scratch. Not surprisingly new technology requires new skills of computer professionals, such as blockchain, and quantum computing. These are relatively easy to address. More surprising, and much harder, are soft skills, such as emotional intelligence. How do we define these, help professionals get them, and perhaps hardest, convince people they need them. Recently an assessment question I wrote for students was criticized by one of my colleagues as not being "academic", because it concerned soft skills. I look forward to being able to say "We are required to teach and test these professional skills".

The work of the board on skills standards goes all the way from high level definitions, down to how to document this, using digital badges, in electronic portfolios. This may all sound very esoteric, but it can result in someone being hired for a job much more quickly, a company getting a contract, a nation increasing productivity, and citizens being safer.