Active ad-hoc education
The speed of changes in IT & telecoms makes it very difficult to define education standards and programs in non-fundamental disciplines. The State (especially in countries like Russia) has no ability to set directions in this area. Meanwhile the industry shows strong growth every year. Accordingly the need of qualified employees grows too. The current situation is that the number of advanced students (who do not relay on University program and practice self-education) can not satisfy companies’ needs anymore. And there is no culture among students to investigate what knowledge and skills will be expected (e.g. by reading job postings). Moreover demographic issues are going to start affecting the labor market in the nearest years. So to allow further development and save (secure) competitiveness of the region (cost of workforce and high professional level) the business should play an appreciable role in educational process, which could be done in some aspects without spending many resources on it.
It seems that the lack of IT professionals will remain for years in all parts of the world. At least if we do approximation of previous times. There are countries where the situation is similar to Russia although.
An online system can be established that will allow creating and boosting positive processes. Business publishes what knowledge and experience it expects from graduates. Sometimes it is not so easy even for technology leading companies to precisely predict areas that will emerge, but they've got strategy planning teams and there are market research agencies. They can put their vision. It could be more valuable for students when not the government institutes, but top companies and brightest local ones say what to learn and what to do. Because companies give jobs and they (at least in theory) know what they need.
The system should contain:
1. Scope of areas to learn with appropriate resources to study (recommended books and online materials – only links, not content)
2. Standard actual tasks (Linux installation, apache configuration, punching UTP cable, make a floor plan in AutoCAD…) Practice is very essential. It is boring to study without playing with real things.
3. Open, non-critical for current business tasks which companies post on the system (e.g. small tools development, beta-testing, process optimization, playing with frontier technologies, light research, market research even in non-tech areas). It is all interesting to play in a sandbox but it can not always drive mad with enthusiasm. Contact with the real world is important.
4.1 Enthusiasts search for enthusiasts. Posts of ideas to implement. (E.g. a professor search for student(s) to implement his/her idea)
4.2 Enthusiasts search for a serious task. Team with relatively comprehensive skills (4-5 year at an institute or the University) looks for an interesting project (idea) to implement.
4.3 Some incubator function (seeding startups). Projects started from 3, 4.1 & 4.2 could evolve into new original businesses.
5. For relatively complicated tasks the system’s engine should support some project management functionality (that supports online collaboration, project tracking; allows integration (at least links) with other new systems like sourceforge, blogs etc). It is important that the system should establish proper project management culture.
6. Rating system - E-bay alike (task openers and task doers rank each other).
The main goal of the system is to promote this active ad-hoc approach to education and to form the environment that boosts use of it. The system should attract and involve people by showing interesting examples.
The system of that kind has more chances then ever before since the very special knowledge, devices and software look as the sign of the last century and technologies which are common and posses open nature here come to stay. More and more study materials, documentation and SW are available for free via Internet and the only hardware needed in the most cases is a PC (better networked 2 or 3) and its standard off-the-shelf periphery.
An important thing is openness. In this context - anyhow the way the process goes it should be visible – intermediate results and current project state must be presented on the system. At least it is must to show task definition - 'request for result' and results - what was done, how it was. The best case is when all interim, support and final documents, negotiations, time tables etc (I mean whole history of a project - are available for public access (directly on server or links to external places). Possible gradations of openness: totally open, …, closed research (only area of task and opinions on results).
Companies make student and techies competitions. All that is known after the competition is often only names of winners. Conditions, results and maybe some intermediate stuff could be placed at the server. In this case distributed teams can be involved.
Immediate companies (employers)
Publishing houses (just to sell more books and periodicals)
Market research agencies, consulting companies
Benefits for employers
Results of tasks which were done successfully
Recruited people already shaped (at least they’ve got an idea) to current activities at company
Gain overall level of students
Company’s promotion (making positive image)
Reaching talent people from regions
Web-based system, maybe with offline clients.
Not to create reincarnations of existing tech engines, to integrate them or just use in a current context (maybe use external blogs, wikies, CVS (sourceforge.org), IM etc.). Cashing information from external resources is possible.
Open source, OSDL, shared R&D, iec.org, respublicaidei.ru, e-generator.ru, innocentive.com, wikipedia.org, freeagent.com, e-graduate.ru.
Examples of tasks to post
Write a tool to analyze (compare etc) logs
Deploy Jabber infrastructure (for 50 workplaces)
Develop a small DB
Build cluster on old computers
Deploy an open source ERP (in University)
Make IT audit - define scope of work. Team that successfully finished a project can define scope of work for another.
Companies with well established processes could be more interesting in the first two components of the system, whilst for chaotic and stingy companies main interest could be parts: 3, 4.1&4.2.
To establish and maintain the core system functionality a forum (consortium) of international (Cisco, Sun, MS, HP, Siemens, Samsung…) and local companies (Digital Design, CBOSS, Nienshanz…) could be formed. It is especially important for local companies to gain average level of graduates, since global players have more abilities to attract most interesting people.
The very important thing is strong and aptly targeted marketing of the system.
The system should not be considered as a profitable business, it is rather a strategic social project to develop the ground for further ICT industry growth. Nevertheless if the system will function well, points of profit could appear.
The system must not be targeted only on high-school students. It could be also a resource for retraining.
The whole engine of the system should allow activities related not only to technical stuff but maybe economical, social, culture, art. The system should be allowed by its born to evolve into something like a project fabric (forum, market…).