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Students Say IT is Great but Work is Boring

A major new piece of national research into students' thinking about careers in IT reveals that the vast majority consider the IT sector to have a bright future with good prospects for highly paid jobs.

The research, based on nearly 2000 responses from undergraduates, found that the single most important reason for students not wishing to enter the sector was their perception that working in IT would be boring.

This research released today by CRAC: The Career Development Organisation, in its Sector Intelligence series, launched at the British Computer Society (BCS), comes at a time when half of IT employers are failing to fill their vacancies and educators are worried about falling numbers studying computing.

"Over 60% of non-computing students cited boring work as the main reason they would not join the sector," reports CRAC Development Director Robin Mellors-Bourne. "Employers should be able to counter that kind of perception. We found that very few of the students hold negative perceptions about the IT profession or its people."

The research also revealed significant differences in motivation for the career choices made by male and female students and the sorts of jobs that would attract them.

While female computing students were every bit as keen as their male counterparts to work in the sector, this was not the case for students in other disciplines.

"The survey suggests that many women will be attracted by the impact that IT projects have in other sectors and areas of life, while the men tend to like the technical projects" says Mellors-Bourne.

Less than 10% of respondents felt that the benefits of a computing degree had been effectively communicated to them at school.

"We need to encourage more students to study computer science and computer related studies at universities in order to ensure that the IT industry can meet the demand for workers in the future. Studying a computing or ICT A-level at school also has a surprisingly big impact on whether a student ultimately goes into an IT career, irrespective of their degree," says Mike Rodd, director of BCS Learned Society, which is driving an outreach campaign to schools.

The research confirmed that work experience remains the strongest influence on career choice for undergraduates, and that existing schemes are very successful in portraying work in the sector in a good light. There appears to be great scope if these schemes can be targeted to students who would not otherwise be considering the sector.

"Greater exposure of young people to the merits of a job in the IT sector is vital, we need to show them the variety of roles in IT and the importance that IT carries today – IT is at the heart of business these days and there are real opportunities now to have a career in IT which will ultimately lead to a position on the board," continued Mike Rodd.

"If the UK IT sector wants to remain competitive it needs to harness the best talent. It is already doing a lot right but we have identified a few key areas in which some decisive change could be really effective," concluded Mellors-Bourne.

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.