The Aanvalsplan Chronisch Tekort ICT’ers (Plan of Attack Chronical Shortage of IT professionals), presented earlier this year, rightly drew attention to the shortage of IT professionals in the Netherlands. To address this problem, we need to change the image of IT and reshape education.
The current image of IT as a field for ‘nerds in T-shirts’ no longer suffices. It’s a numbers game: to recruit more IT professionals, we also need to involve women, because there are simply too few men. Special programs aimed at girls can help attract a wider range of talent. I hesitate to say that we should then link IT to, say, projects in the fashion industry to make it more interesting for that target group. Afterall, interest in working with processes and automation is not only something only for boys.
A repositioning of IT in education could be beneficial. At the moment it is mainly in the science corner, but it is now such an essential part of our society that you can argue for IT as a separate subject. You can then offer various modules, such as coding, process automation and applicable IT. Learning programming can also be compared to learning a new language, perhaps you should place it more in that corner. With a different positioning of the subject, children and young people will also make different choices.
The Plan of Attack goes on to talk about a Cloud IT Academy, with a focus on middle vocational education (MBO4 or senior high school) graduates. That is also an example of a new route in IT education, which I think is a really good idea. I do see the danger of it becoming a static program because educational innovations can be slow, while the IT work field changes at lightning speed. Guest lectures can be a solution to this – I sometimes do that for universities, so why not for MBO? The idea of shifting the focus from courses followed to skills is also very valuable. Practical experience and coaching play a crucial role in retaining talent and promoting growth, and often bring more than certificates.
What is not mentioned in the Plan of Attack but can also support the influx of new groups is if more IT companies establish themselves outside the Randstad. Young people are more likely to opt for such training if they see there are jobs nearby.
The ICT Chronic Shortage Attack Plan provides a great starting point to address the shortage of IT professionals. Now is the time to take action and (continue to) work together for a strong IT sector.