ICT Employment

 

ICT Framework

If you are perplexed and confused by ICT, you are not alone, and that is not terribly surprising. Don’t feel bad about it. It’s not your fault. Our society has done a poor job of providing and communicating coherent structure around information and communications technologies.

There are many different and inter-related information and communications technologies, and they are often complex, technical and confusing. They have emerged from different sources at different times. There are many proprietary or differing terms and acronyms for things that may or may not be all that different. They emerge and evolve through rapid technological changes, and, to further complicate things, their marketing descriptions and names often change through business acquisitions and attempts at differentiation. They are incredibly pervasive, used by most people, organizations and industries – often in different ways. Frequently, people make up their own names for things, including technologies, applications of technologies, ICT business practices, job titles and job descriptions. Confusion and disorientation about ICT is widely and naturally experienced by students, users, counselors, managers, employees, employers, academics, policymakers, investors, scientists and others.

This simple ICT framework attempts to use plain language to help people with all kinds of backgrounds and needs make sense of this large, confusing field and be able to communicate simply and effectively, at a high level, about ICT.



Information and Communications Technologies:

Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) is simply an umbrella or catch-all term to encompass everything related to computing, software, information, networking and communications technologies. If it has or uses software controlled electronic circuitry or is a technology that helps people or devices communicate with each other, it’s ICT.

That doesn’t mean existing ICT related terms go away. ICT doesn’t replace computer hardware or software, information technology, information sciences, computer science, telecommunications or any other existing terms. However, all of these fields or terms are related, and at a high level, we should be aware of how they are inter-related, inter-dependent, co-evolving and converging. At a high level, we need to be able to fit these various pieces together and understand what they are, what they do and how they are used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ICT Industries:

There are large and strategically important industries that develop ICT related technologies, products and services. Among them are industries that:

  • produce and support computing/communication hardware, peripherals and components;

  • produce and support computing/communication software, operating systems and applications;

  • deploy, maintain and manage communication and IT infrastructure and services; and

  • provide services and support for other industries in their application and use of ICT.

ICT industries provide outstanding benefits to our economies and excellent jobs. In the information and knowledge economies of the 21st century, these industries have tremendous strategic importance, because they provide solutions that empower and enable all kinds of individuals and organizations to be able to do the things they do, productively and efficiently.

Non-ICT Industries:

Today, however, most organizations and individuals make productive use of ICT in their lives and enterprises. ICT provides productivity tools, communications media, business process and other management tools, efficient research tools, recordkeeping, accounting, support and sales systems. People and organizations increasingly learn about each other and interact via ICT. We use ICT to reach and serve customers and to do business with suppliers. ICT is used by all kinds of people, organizations and employers. It’s how they realize many of their productivity gains and efficiencies. It’s the source of many strategic advantages. For those reasons and others, ICT knowledge and skills are required in all kinds of industries and organizations, and high quality, well-paid ICT jobs exist in most industries and organizations. In fact, ICT Workforce employment is greater outside of ICT industries than within them.



Levels of ICT Expertise:

There are some very basic levels of expertise and roles with ICT. The lines between them are often fuzzy, and people primarily in one area may have roles in others.

ICT Creators:

At the top is the level of theoretical experts, the R&D scientists, the wizards who develop the academic and theoretical science and applications of that science that develop and advance ICT fields, industries, products and services. These are engineers, scientists and experts. Most often, they have advanced degrees. They may work in academic institutions or the research and development organizations of ICT or non-ICT industry companies. Sometimes, these are self-taught people who learn through other channels, tinkering or learning from others in the field. Community colleges develop students for these roles primarily by preparing them for cost-effective transfer to 4 year colleges and universities.

ICT Enablers:

The middle layer consists of applied technologists, those who understand existing ICT technologies and their implementations well enough to deploy, maintain, manage and support them in the real world. These are technicians, managers, analysts, specialists, installers and administrators. They are employed in the IT operations of all kinds of organizations - in every industry – in addition to companies in ICT related industries. They develop an understanding of existing technologies and put them to use for the benefit of their organizations and users. They enable and support the use of ICT by ICT Users. They deploy ICT infrastructure and enterprise systems and make sure they are available and functioning for others. Community colleges have a variety of programs to develop the knowledge and skill sets for this dimension. Some involve very specific and narrow training on specific technologies, equipment, systems or software. Some involve more comprehensive and broad knowledge and skill sets for broader roles. Some are academic programs, and some are Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. Often, community colleges serve graduates of 4-year colleges and universities who want to develop or keep up with applied technology knowledge and skill sets, because they are in such demand in the workplace.

ICT Users:

These days, most people are ICT users. Students use ICT to get their assignments, conduct research, complete work, present work, interact with educational systems, communicate with teachers, and stay in touch with family and friends. People throughout the workforce, in all kinds of industries, use ICT to interact with organizational and business systems, get their work done, do research and communicate with fellow employees, peers, customers, suppliers and business partners. Citizens increasingly use ICT for entertainment, communicating with family and friends, managing family business, and learning about and interacting with government services. To effectively be a part of society and academic and work worlds in the 21st century, most people need knowledge and competency with information and communication technologies, no matter what their field or industry is. This is sometimes called “digital literacy.” Community colleges play a large role in developing ICT User competencies and digital literacy, to enable the success of students and citizens throughout society.

 

ICT Helpers:

 

The line between ICT Users and ICT Enablers represents workplace roles for people who help ICT Users be ICT Users. They understand the systems ICT Users use very well, and they help Users learn to use those systems, answer questions about them and help resolve Users’ problems. These “Help Desk” and ICT Support roles are often entry level positions. Sometimes they are in Call Centers specializing in providing support. Sometimes they are part of the IT operations of enterprises. Community colleges help students prepare for these roles.

 

ICT Spreaders:

 

The line between ICT Creators and ICT Enablers represents workplace roles for people who help spread ICT innovations by getting people to adopt what ICT Creators create. They get the word out. They have roles in public relations, marketing, sales, sales engineering, and product and service management. They serve both business markets, where their customers are IT operations of all kinds of businesses in every industry, and consumer markets, where their customers are ICT Users, all kinds of people everywhere. They have good people skills. They understand technologies, but they specialize in helping people understand ICT innovations and why they should use them. They get people to pay money for them, to fund future ICT innovation. They help people design and implement solutions to their problems that ICT innovations can help solve. Community colleges help prepare students for many of these roles.



Unique Industry Environments:

There are knowledge and skill sets that generally apply to each layer of the pyramid above, and academic and workforce development programs provide a variety of educational and training services to help people develop those knowledge and skills sets. They are generally transferable across industries. However, ICT is in every industry, and there are also peculiarities with how ICT is developed and used in specific industries. Imagine the pyramid above as a cone or pie. Each industry slices into that pie and adapts and infuses it with specialized equipment, software, applications and services that meet the unique needs of its operating and regulatory environments, scientific field, user, supplier and customer characteristics, products and services. Biotech companies for example use specialized ICT devices to sample and test biological specimens and DNA. They generate and manage large databases and have specialized analytical and reporting tools. They have special operating and regulatory requirements, like keeping samples clean and uninfected and securing biologically active agents and information. Banking and financial services firms have very important information security requirements that are both business critical and legal requirements – and custom solutions like electronic trading systems. Healthcare organizations have to secure patient information and meet various recordkeeping requirements. While the requirements, designs and applications in industries vary, the fundamentals of ICT remain the same across industries.

 

 

Technology Migration:
 

Additionally, there is an evolution or migration with information and communication technologies. Initially, technologies are in the realm of a new innovation, something grappled with in R&D efforts and a product of ICT Creators. ICT Spreaders get the word out about that innovation, and people start using it. Initially, those are early adopters and risk takers, relatively sophisticated customers who become sophisticated and specialized Users of that technology. Historically, those early adopters were often in IT operations of businesses, people in the ICT Enabler domain. (Now, those are often consumer Users.) Iteratively, those innovations are improved and made easier to adopt and use. Eventually, they are adopted by less sophisticated people, ICT Users, who are supported by ICT Helpers. Finally, many of these technologies become accessible to everyone. As a result, what is initially a very specialized technology, accessible only to very knowledgeable specialists, becomes available to common people.

This can create challenges for labor market analysts trying to classify workforce positions and skills. For example, initially printing was done by hand using pen and paper. Later, it was done with physical type and hand work by people whose job that was. ICT Creators developed an ability to create and print documents digitally. At first, this was mind-blowingly difficult, and only very special Creators could do it. Eventually, Creators improved those wordprocessing and desktop publishing solutions and made them more accessible. ICT Spreaders then publicized, marketed and sold those solutions, initially to businesses that developed specialized staff to work with those technologies, because there were advantages to them to integrate these technical solutions and build activities around them. There were specialized jobs for “Wordprocessors” and “Desktop Publishers,” and wordprocessing and desktop publishing solutions were expensive and not widely available. Eventually, Creators improved those solutions and made them easier to work with and cheaper, and they became accessible and affordable to all kinds of people, ICT Users. ICT Helpers support Users of wordprocessing and desktop publishing systems, and the benefits of those systems are widely available.

Initially, the jobs around wordprocessing and desktop publishing technologies were Creator roles like Scientist and Engineer. As the technologies were adopted by ICT Enablers, there were specialized occupations for Wordprocessors and Desktop Publishers tracked by labor market analysts. Now, there are fewer jobs for Wordprocessors and Desktop Publishers. However, that doesn’t mean that wordprocessing and desktop publishing are no longer important or necessary for educational institutions to teach. It means that those technologies are now accessible to ICT Users and should be taught as part of Digital Literacy. We now expect that almost everyone in the workforce should be able to use wordprocessing and desktop publishing technologies.

 

 

The ICT Pyramid:

This ICT Pyramid graphic is a tool for facilitating communication between all kinds of knowledgeable and non-knowledgeable stakeholders about information and communication technologies (ICT) and the various roles of people who engage with them. Because ICT fields move so fast, people have such differing understandings about them, and the jargon creates such confusion, it is helpful to have a simple tool with which to structure constructive communication about ICT. Hopefully, this is useful. MPICT has had great success using this tool to structure conversations and place specific technologies, problems, roles, programs and opinions.

 


Universal General Education and Experience:

No matter the industry or organization, employees need a good general education and the benefits from experiences doing real things in the real world to really add value. Business and industry consistently demands of all employees: an ability to communicate effectively, diverse problem definition and problem solving skills, an ability to work well in diverse groups, an understanding of social, cultural and business contexts, motivation, an ability to find information and resources, time management skills, analytical abilities, and social skills. In preparing to work in the IT operations of businesses, it is also important to understand how those departments typically organize themselves, what their workflows are and how they manage their efforts. Academic programs and students who do not address these important needs will be less successful than those who do.

Conclusion:

Today, everybody needs ICT User knowledge and skills, every community college should provide and require them, and we should have widespread credentials that certify digital literacy. With that, students are better prepared for academic and workplace success, in any field.

Community colleges can prepare Students for ICT Workforce employment:

  • in good entry level jobs as ICT Helpers, supporting and assisting other ICT Users,

  • in more specialized ICT Enabler roles, deploying, maintaining, monitoring and supporting ICT infrastructure and enterprise systems, and evolving into roles managing complex ICT systems and business operations, and

  • in good ICT Spreader roles, marketing, sales and sales engineering jobs that require some technical knowledge but a lot of people skills.

Community colleges have a variety of programs to cost effectively prepare people for these roles. Those programs are appropriate for new students, as well as for graduates of 4 year colleges and universities and working professionals.

For academics and those with strong theoretical foundations and interests, there are R&D scientist and engineering positions, where technologies are developed and advanced. Most of these require advanced degrees, but community colleges can help you on that path through affordable programs and transfer pathways into 4 year colleges and universities.

No matter what, it’s important to have good common sense, reasoning and research capacity, social and interpersonal skills, problem solving abilities, real world experiences and communication skills.