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Ten Industry Perspectives from IT Employers

The National Convergence Technology Center (CTC) recently convened its Business and Industry Leadership Team (BILT) for the annual vote and discussion of entry-level KSAs (knowledge, skills, and abilities). Regular blog readers know well that the CTC believes that this annual vote is essential to keeping curriculum aligned with evolving workforce needs. If you’re not familiar with the BILT model or this annual vote, which works for any technical discipline, take a look at our recent 30-minute webinar Common Barriers to Successfully Engaging Employers – and How to Overcome Them. After the BILT members vote on entry-level skills, the group talks about the results. That discussion covers a variety of topics and perspectives and often results in significant edits to the KSA list, which is why that post-vote conversation can be just as valuable as the metrics of the vote.   Four people sitting in a classroom looking at their laptops during a meeting.

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the more interesting statements that came out of our May meeting.

  • For now, 5G antennas are only deployed where there is enough of a population to support the $2 million installation cost. At least through 2023, 5G is going to stick close to big cities. The rule of thumb is “no people, no tower.”
  • Technicians who don’t know Lean and Agile will be “lost.” Companies that embrace Lean or Agile principles are often further ahead than those that do not. Cutting waste and inefficiencies are important concepts for students. One IT executive at a leading DoD contractor noted that every program he does and has done uses Agile. All of his new hires have to work in this mode.
  • AWS and Azure cloud services may soon be superfluous as serverless and edge become more commonplace. One BILT member believes that edge computing “will change everything.” In fact, he suspects most of the KSAs they’ve been discussing may well be rendered obsolete.
  • The title “network engineer” may be falling out of favor – one CIO noted that his employees all want to be called “cloud engineers,” a title that can carry more prestige and a higher salary.
  • There is a clear AWS bias across all industries, but students, for now, need to be familiar with Azure and Google Cloud as well. Each platform offers unique specialties – if you’re going to build a big analytics system, you need Google; if you’re going to build an open-source solution, use AWS; if you’re building in Microsoft Windows, you need to be in Azure.
  • That said, another BILT member noted that cloud providers are all “just GUIs to hypervisors.” When he hires workers, he doesn’t care if the person knows AWS or VMware – if you understand one of them, you can learn the GUI of another. For educators with limited funds, he would rather hire someone who knows the free VirtualBox platform and then let them learn AWS on the job.
  • The CWNA certification is “foundational” in wireless, similar to what CCNA is for networking. CWNA provides a broad awareness of entry-level wireless skills.
  • Students need to know the value of identifying organizational goals and understanding how those goals align with the network architecture. Managers may not always provide that information, so students need to learn to ask it themselves: “How does what I’m doing relate to the organization’s success?” One CEO noted that millennial workers, in particular, seem to want to understand how they’re making a difference. If they don’t feel valued and don’t see their contribution, they’ll leave. Employers need to embrace this mindset and that need to feel ownership.
  • For now, most networks in the US likely do not have AI deployed. It’s a blip on the radar but it will become more and more critical over the next two years.
  • Students need to be taught how to “be ready to change.” One employer explained his company’s job descriptions are just a “point in time.” His employees typically don’t end up doing anything on their job description.
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