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Tuesday, 08 September 2009 10:30

ACS wants more on-the-job learning for ICT grads

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The ACS Foundation wants more on-the-job learning for ICT students as part of their university studies after a survey of more than 700 recent graduates found that while there was satisfaction with the quality of technical preparation, both employers and the graduates themselves wanted improved work-integrated learning to better equip them for joining the workforce.

The foundation, an initiative of the ACS, found in its survey that 70% of ICT graduates wish they had undertaken more work experience when at university, and says that this tallies with the importance that prospective employers place on work experience.

The foundation chairman, John Debrincat, says that more than 700 recent ICT graduates from 21 Australian universities responded to the survey which was funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council and led by a team from the University of Wollongong.
 
According to Debrincat, while there was satisfaction with the quality of technical preparation, there was a resounding call by employers and the graduates themselves for improved work-integrated learning, and when asked how well they thought their university had prepared them for employment in the industry, 70% of students wanted more workplace learning to be included in their courses.

Welcoming the report, the President of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT, Peter Cole, said there was no better way of learning the requirements of the workplace than “actually being there and doing it," and, he added, many universities will have to make considerable changes to meet the needs requested by the graduates, and that his council was “taking serious action in this regard.”

Debrincat said that the findings support the activities of the ACS Foundation which promotes the concept of mandatory work-integrated learning for all ICT students and, he said that “an important message that needs to be sent to current students is the value that prospective employers attribute to relevant work experience.

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“Many undergraduates have a sense of urgency about finishing their time at University. They don’t recognise how relevant work experience will actually accelerate their careers and help ensure a more satisfying start.”

Debrincat also said that since its launch in August 2001, the ACS Foundation had raised more than $23.5 million and awarded more than 1,650 scholarships.

“We continue to build relationships with our industry partners and look forward to a steady growth in the number of scholarships we award each year to find relevant work experience opportunities for students.

“In the last financial year the ACS Foundation raised more than $4.8 million for scholarships from corporate donors, an increase of more than half a million dollars on the previous year.”

The foundation says that there have been a number of recent surveys of organisations which employ graduates, including a pilot study by the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) which was conducted in conjunction with this graduate study.

According to Debrincat, the AIIA study showed that less than half the employer organisations were satisfied with the personal qualities and interpersonal skills of their recent graduate recruits, and the areas most in need of improvement were communication and problem solving skills.

And, a 2008 paper from Australian university vice-chancellors advocated a national internship scheme to enhance the skills and work readiness of all Australian university graduates.

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