Have you ever asked a child what they want to be when they grow up and received the answer, "an IT consultant"? Arguably, the information and communication technology industry, more than any other sector, is in need of an image makeover - and soon. It's a fact that the name alone may be enough to send yawns around a room of year 12 students. So how do we attract people to an industry lacking a strong, identifiable brand image?
The image problem is more than just words and pictures. Perhaps it is best illustrated by the ease with which most students could accurately describe the work of a doctor, lawyer or police officer, yet would be hard-pressed to answer the same about an IT consultant.
Part of the issue lies with the relatively new status of the IT industry and its rapid evolution. Computer science was a distinct academic discipline in the 1960s (think data-punch operators) yet today the simple term IT consultant encompasses a multitude of skills and responsibilities.
In addition, make a search of any leading IT job board and you will find at least 22 distinct IT classifications. To complicate matters further, within each are many technology platforms, infrastructures, hardware, software and operating languages.
Those considering a career in the IT industry could be forgiven for being confused - for IT consultants already in the profession, the picture is no less confusing.
So what is the solution to the industry identification crisis?
A good start would be to look at the "Go places" series of television advertisements run by CPA Australia over the past 12 months. The advertising campaign has made accountancy seem sexy - and helped people identify with it by showing real CPAs building international careers.
The two pre-eminent IT industry bodies in Australia are the Australian Computer Society and the Australian Information Industry Association. While a huge amount of positive work has been achieved by these bodies working independently and together, a comparison of their objectives shows they are trying to achieve the same goals.
Since the IT industry relies so much on cohesive engagement by educators, employers, politicians and industry bodies, there is an argument for the ACS and AIIA consolidation to move things ahead with vigour.
The opportunities for those with the right skills are immense, but as an industry we need to start talking in a common and engaging language. Pooling resources to design and support an effective image campaign could be one answer. In partnership, the peak IT bodies could work with educators and government to implement a focused, IT careers education program in schools as a productive first step.
In the United States, there was a huge increase in enrolments for forensic science university courses when the hit television show Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) aired. What's needed is a Gil Grissom for the IT industry, brought about by a well-designed and funded IT careers campaign now that the "nerd" moniker has well and truly passed away.
Andrew Cross firstname.lastname@example.org, Andy Cross is managing director of the technology division of recruitment company Ambition.
©Fairfax Business Media
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