Mr Ridge was particularly scathing about the quality of ICT teaching in NSW Government schools, saying that only 100-120 of IT teachers in the State’s 2,200 schools were “doing a good job” and were in any case hampered by a curriculum which was out of date.
It wasn’t just the educators that were out of touch: Mr Ridge said that industry associations had done a poor job in terms of providing collateral describing the range of ICT careers to school career advisors. He said that industry and Government had not been sufficiently aggressive in their attempts to encourage more people to consider careers in IT, but acknowledged that there was no quick fix for the problem.
While the Australian Computer Society has been working on initiatives to attempt to encourage more schoolchildren to consider careers in ICT, the ACS Foundation was established in 2001 with the intention of helping students find useful work experience which would make them more valuable for employers and hence eventually help them find permanent positions.
Since it was founded the organisation has secured more than $42.5 million worth of donations, which have allowed it to fund 3,850 Work Integrated Learning (WIL) scholarships – a third of them awarded to women according to Mr Ridge.
John Osorio, who received a WIL scholarship from Fast Track Communications said he received a $1,350 fortnightly payment from the ACSF which allowed him to work with the company while continuing to study at UTS for his Diploma in IT Professional Practice at the University of Technology, Sydney. After graduating he was offered a full time role with the company.
Geoff Bednal, general manager at Fast Track Communications said that the ACS Foundation programme allowed it to find, and then work with students with an interest in communications, and equip them with the skills that they would need in the workplace, while still allowing students to complete their studies. He also said that the ACS Foundation was easy to work with, and its programmes were affordable.
Mr Ridge said that 96.6 per cent of all WIL scholarship recipients found work after completing their scholarship programme.