The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently convened its Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) for its spring quarterly meeting. A portion of this meeting was spent discussing both current challenges and emerging trends in the IT workplace. Ideally, you’re already doing this with your employer council – setting aside time on the meeting agenda to let them share what they’re seeing in the industry.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more interesting statements that came out of our May meeting, some of which have been mentioned at past meetings.
1. For now, AWS remains the preeminent cloud service provider. There are some employers in certain regions looking for Azure and Google Cloud skills, but those are in the minority. Even so, one BILT member noted that all of the cloud providers are just GUIs. He urged programs to teach students the underlying foundational skills. To him, working with virtual machines – whether in remote or local – require the same know-how. If you know the fundamentals, you can use any of them.
2. CompTIA’s A+ certification may not be as valuable as it used to be in part because more and more of the industry is moving into virtual environments. The BILT noted the A+ content may be useful, but it’s the Network+ and Security+ certs that seem to carry more cache with hiring managers.
3. Students who don’t know the certification content will be exposed at job interviews. One BILT members explained that he’s been in interviews with applicants who have a lot of certs but cannot answer simple IT questions. He’s assuming they cheated to pass the test. Another BILT member called this sort of applicant a “paper tiger,” someone with certifications but not practical understanding of the technology.
4. Scripting for networking continues to play a big role in IT. One BILT member said that the days of doing hands-on keyboard work one at a time are over. Now technicians can create a script and program interface and set up the functionality from there. That sort of automation – driven by languages like Python – is key.
5. Online forums like GitHub and Reddit and Signal can provide valuable networking for technicians. Those platforms are where “geeks” get together to share ideas and collaborate. Entry-level workers won’t know everything, so it’s good to know where to go to ask for help. That said, the BILT cautioned that these forums aren’t always safe and secure. They should be used with care. Anything pulled from those forums should be thoroughly tested in an isolated environment.
6. A mindset of lifelong learning is essential in fast-changing industries like IT. One BILT member noted that the day someone earns a certification is the day that person needs to immediately start self-learning on that topic to stay current. Employers are always looking for “new stuff” and skills the company lacks and, most often, the current employees already know the “old stuff.” Those who work hard to stay on the cutting edge – whether it’s taking classes, reading journals, or watching videos on a lunch break – will be in demand.
7. There’s more to network engineering than set-up and configuration. Students also need to know how to monitor that network when you’re not watching it and then respond to problems. That is, you can’t just set up a firewall and then not monitor it. How will you know if you’re being attacked?
8. Consolidation of IT services and technologies continues. The old days of siloed employees are over. Students should understand how everything is growing more and more connected. Too many problems arise in business when technology teams don’t communicate. One BILT member gave the example of AI tools built on Python that are posted on GitHub forums. You can’t teach each of these concepts independently. Students need the context. They need to see the overlap and connections. A good way to do this is through case studies and group projects.
9. Many cloud customers mistakenly expect the cloud provider to provide security. But one BILT member – who’s made this statement in the past – reminded everyone that it’s up to the customers to take those extra steps to secure their data. The cloud provider is only providing security for the cloud infrastructure.