Every so often I hear something that makes me quite irritable, and it’s not just that Bristol City have lost again. Although that does make me quite grumpy. What is going on down at Ashton Gate?
So what has upset me now? It’s the hypothesis that this up and coming generation ‘get’ technology. I originally bought this whole digital native / digital migrant stuff. And then recently someone made a pertinent comment and when I joined at the dots, I found the line didn’t exist. I shall explain. For years Public Sector IT staff were the poor relation. Paid less than their private sector counterparts, they were usually fobbed off with mutterings about ‘final salary pensions’ and job security. Then someone realised that actually if you pay less, you get less. So the salaries equalised, and lo, the skills/quality gap disappeared. And so for a few years now, Public Sector IT staff have been the equal of their colleagues in the private sector.
But now, as the CSR casts its shadow over the public sector, and the private sector picks up, the pay delta will open up again and there will be a net flow out of the Public Sector into the Private Sector. Discussing this with a few people over a beer, someone played the usual, “ahh it’s OK, today’s kids get technology so much better than we did – there will be a glut of recruits and everything will settle down in a few years.”
So I thought about this, and quickly came to the conclusion that my colleague should have not had that last pint. It’s just not true that the next generation coming onto the jobs market are technology natives. Sure, they are comfortable using a machine with a digitised UI and can type by the time they are 10, but they have no interest in how it works: it just does. Oddly, people in their 50s are more likely to ‘get’ technology. They have engineering degrees, did woodwork classes and maintained their own cars. They understand the effect of putting widget A into sprocket B, and once they have made the jump to the virtual world get on just dandy.
So here is the rub. Get behind stuff like the UK Cyber Challenge and stop buying into this nonsense about kids ‘getting IT’. Unless we in the Public Sector IA space make an effort to train the students of today in our trade, come tomorrow there will be a huge shortage of suitable staff and it’s all going to end in a big horrid mess.