Can the Caribbean tech skills crisis be solved?

An introductory discussion on ways in which we might be able to increase the supply of tech skills to meet the current and increasing demand.

In today’s workforce, it is widely known that the demand of tech skills outstrips supply, and the situation is expected more acute in the future. The skills needed are diverse, and touch on virtually all of the key IT/ICT areas: from network administrators and software engineers, to data scientists, information security analysts, and mobile application and web developers.

To varying degrees, countries have been trying to address the problem by integrating computer use in school, in the hope of fostering, at the very least, computer literacy. In the Caribbean, we have been able to take it a step further by teaching dedicated IT subjects at high school, and setting regional examinations in those subjects, both at the ordinary (Grade 11) and advanced (Grades 12 and 13) levels.

However, studying those subjects at the high school level is not mandatory. The few students who gravitate to them are either considering careers in the tech field, or enjoy or have an aptitude for the subjects. Further, the syllabi at those levels are foundational, and tends not to be enough (and rightly so!) to fully prepare students to execute complex specialist work in those areas.

At the tertiary level, and similar to the experience in secondary schools, enrollment in programmes, such as computer programming and computer science, tends to be considerably lower than the more popular subjects, such as those offered in business and economics. As a result, graduate numbers are low, which reflects in the low skills availability and supply.

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