“Stop investing in computers – it’s time to invest in human beings”

2 May 2013

In March 2013 the Hi-Tech Park Administration, the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusian State University and Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics announced a public debate on problems connected with preparing software development specialists in Belarus. The round table discussion of the results of this campaign called “National IT industry: preparing of specialists and the development of entrepreneurship in Belarus” took place on April 26 within the framework of TIBO 2013. Representatives of the Ministry of Education, leading Belarusian universities, educational centers and the biggest IT companies put maximum effort to find out and discuss new opportunities and approaches to the main problem – a severe shortage of qualified specialists in IT sphere.

Matriculation increase in IT sphere

This is not the first year when there is a lack of human resources on the labor market, the lack in IT specialists in particular. In fact, every working day there are 10 new jobs created in the HTP. According to statistics, 75 % of those employed by the HTP resident-companies are below 30 years old. One of the major sources of employees for the companies is recent graduates and partially, final year students.

5 years ago it was impossible to predict this severe shortage of staff. At that time the Ministry of Education could not foresee such a fast development if the HTP project.

At the round table redistribution of students and labs between “engineering” and “liberal arts” universities and departments was suggested as one of the options. The demand for graduates is supposed to become the main criteria for this redistribution and it can be estimated by analyzing actual job placements of 2011-2013 graduates who had and didn’t have a full scholarship. The results of such an analysis will show which professions are in demand and which are not and therefore help to make amendments to matriculation figures.

The participants also discussed the need for additional incentives for the youth to choose professions connected with engineering.

Retraining of specialists

The lack of resources in IT sphere can be compensated not only by increasing the amount of graduates who majored in this sphere. Non-governmental educational centers are ready to start training adults offering them supplementary education.

“The new Code deprived us of the right to retrain staff. Maybe, in the situation of a severe shortage of specialists this right should be given back to us” – Igor Neroslavskij, the Deputy Director of IBA Educational Center suggested.

Olga Mushinskaja, the Inspector General of Higher Education Department of the Ministry of Education supported the initiative: “I don’t see any problem here. The Code has being monitored – go ahead, make an official suggestion”.

Certification of the programs for the sphere

The participants offered another possible solution to the problem of improving the quality of IT education – to create an expert group on the basis of the Hi-Tech Park that could coordinate curriculum for future IT specialists discussing it with all the interested representatives of IT industry. In this case the curriculum would be approved by potential employers – IT companies themselves.

There was also an idea to create a fund to pay teachers for these courses, “approved” by IT people. Graduates who listened to at least five of such courses could count on a better paid job.

The open discussion touched upon various problems connected with preparing software developers in Belarus and solutions to some of them have not yet been found. However, all the participants agreed on one thing: all these problems must be addressed urgently and in a comprehensive way, the resources should be invested not only in new classes and labs, but in people, as well, valuable teachers and specialists who are able to prepare qualified staff necessary for further development of Belarusian IT industry.

“We should stop investing money in computer classes! Let’s invest in people. Nowadays they have their own laptops, tablets and smart phones. Enough computers, maybe we should offer them WI-FI instead … The main thing is people who are willing and capable of teaching!” – summed up the Director of Belarusian State University IT center.

Kuprevicha, 1/1, 220141, Minsk, Belarus.