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Employer Feedback on IT Job Skills

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) convenes its Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) each May to update a detailed list of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) for entry-level IT infrastructure workers. In that meeting, BILT members work through the previous year’s KSA list line by line, ranking each item on a scale of 1 to 4 and then discussing and debating as needed both the voting results and the wording of each KSA item. You can learn more about this process here.

If your program isn’t working with your employers to conduct this sort of detailed, metric-driven evaluation of workforce skills – and then making sure your curriculum is teaching them – you’re doing your students a disservice.

While the final 2021 updated list of KSAs from the CTC’s BILT won’t be released until September, it’s worth noting a number of interesting comments that were made by the BILT member employers during last month’s discussion.

• Today’s IT culture is “security first.” Before, IT departments often put all of the security burden on cybersecurity teams. It was cybersecurity’s job to secure everything. But now, security is baked into everything. The entire IT group now must have the knowledge and ability to secure the network.

• Students who learn about IoT sensors will likely have an edge in the job market. The more students can learn about this, the better.

• While the specifics of “continuous quality improvement” principles will likely be specific to each employer, there is value to students understanding the basics. In particular, the BILT believed students would benefit from an introduction to Lean and Agile.

• Technicians can sometimes be attracted to a “shiny new” tool or technology that may or may not support an organization’s business goals. Students therefore need to understand the importance of “knowing your business” and align solutions with employer’s needs.

• It can be easy to get caught up in the allure of specific cloud providers, but the BILT emphasized the need to focus on networking fundamentals. It doesn’t matter whether a database in the cloud or on-premises. Students need to understand the underlying infrastructure technology, not the AWS or Azure user interface.

• AWS is still the king of cloud providers, but the BILT noted that in the real world, companies often don’t “put all of their eggs in one basket” of platforms.

• Ethereum – which uses blockchain for cloud computing and cloud databases – poses a possibly huge threat to AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. It was designed to disrupt.

• Knowing OSI layers are essential to understanding of what networks are. One BLT member, a CIO, still uses his knowledge of OSI layers.

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