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Future of IT bright, but work boring, say undergraduates

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National research into students’ thinking about careers in IT has revealed that the vast majority consider the sector to have a bright future with good prospects for highly paid jobs.

The research, based on nearly 2,000 responses from undergraduates, found that the single most important reason for students not wishing to enter the sector was their perception that working in IT would be boring.

The research released by CRAC: The Career Development Organisation, comes at a time when half of IT employers are failing to fill their vacancies and educators are worried about falling numbers studying computing.

“Over 60% of non-computing students cited boring work as the main reason they would not join the sector,” reports CRAC development director Robin Mellors-Bourne. “Employers should be able to counter that kind of perception. We found that very few of the students hold negative perceptions about the IT profession or its people.”

The research also revealed significant differences in motivation for the career choices made by male and female students and the sorts of jobs that would attract them. While female computing students were every bit as keen as their male counterparts to work in the sector, this was not the case for students in other disciplines.

“The survey suggests that many women will be attracted by the impact that IT projects have in other sectors and areas of life, while the men tend to like the technical projects,” says Mellors-Bourne.

Less than 10% of respondents felt that the benefits of a computing degree had been effectively communicated to them at school.

“We need to encourage more students to study computer science and computer related studies at universities in order to ensure that the IT industry can meet the demand for workers in the future. Studying a computing or ICT A level at school also has a surprisingly big impact on whether a student ultimately goes into an IT career, irrespective of their degree,” says Mike Rodd, director of the British Computer Society Learned Society, which is driving an outreach campaign to schools.

The research confirmed that work experience remains the strongest influence on career choice for undergraduates, and that existing schemes are very successful in portraying work in the sector in a good light. There appears to be great scope if these schemes can be targeted to students who would not otherwise be considering the sector.

“Greater exposure of young people to the merits of a job in the IT sector is vital, we need to show them the variety of roles in IT and the importance that IT carries today – IT is at the heart of business these days and there are real opportunities now to have a career in IT which will ultimately lead to a position on the board,” continued Mike Rodd.

“If the UK IT sector wants to remain competitive it needs to harness the best talent. It is already doing a lot right but we have identified a few key areas in which some decisive change could be really effective,” concluded Mellors-Bourne.

‘Do undergraduates want a career in IT?’ was launched at the CRAC seminar yesterday. The full report can be found at: http://www.crac.org.uk/crac_new/Ideas_Exchange/Publications.asp

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