Powering North Queensland: sun, sand and… information technology
A leader of North Queensland’s IT industry says the North is becoming a powerhouse of information technology.
Dr Trina Myers, Senior Lecturer in Information Technology at James Cook University, who was recently named as National ICT Educator of the Year at the 2014 iAwards, said amid all the other attractions of North Queensland’s lifestyle, in the past, IT had generally not been on the radar.
“We have a wonderful lifestyle up here in the Tropics, but there is not really a strong awareness of how strong our IT industry is up here,” Dr Myers said.
“Technology is not going to go away. The IT students of today are going to be moving the IT industry forward tomorrow.
“Our main objective is to better align with what students want in their career and what they can get, so our graduates are m ore likely to find themselves being sought after in the job market.”
Dr Myers said in the past there have been missing links between the students and the IT industry.
“Our main objective is to better align with what students want in their career and what they can get, so our graduates are more likely to find themselves being sought after in the job market,” she said.
Dr Myers said the newly refreshed Bachelor of Information Technology was an innovative degree that aligns directly with graduate requirements for both the local and national ICT industry.
Making connections between students and industry during the course of a degree was important, as these linkages were very much an interwoven element of the bigger picture, she said.
“Through extensive consultation, the local IT industry have also been a major part of the development of the newly refreshed Bachelor of IT to ensure a total alignment with the degree and required graduate qualities.
“The Townsville Industry Business Network is a very strong group and has proven a great portal to introduce students to local industry partners so they gain exposure to future employers through internships while undertaking their degrees. The aim is to keep the knowledge in the Northern region so the ICT industry can grow.
"I truly believe my students successes are my successes and I applaud each and every one.”
The degree has some aspects not available at any other universities, such as the amount of flexibility for IT students to develop their own career pathways.
Dr Myers said the jobs available in IT were incredibly diverse, so the degree needed to cater to this by applying both traditional and non-traditional curriculum strategies.
“With Facebook and other social media, how we market, how we interact with people, the degree needs to be flexible enough to move with it. The degree has been purposely designed to be organic because it needs to evolve with the technology trends as they come.”
Dr Myers said as a regional university, JCU lecturers were able to spend time with each student on a one-to-one basis.
“The benefits for students with all these transparent linkages to staff and industry partners throughout their degree is a very strong transition directly to the workforce due to the personal attention we can give to developing all skills, including the incredibly important ‘soft skills’.
“Soft skills are what the ICT industry wants most in a graduate. They include interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills, which are usually not the major focus in a degree where hard skills are imperative.
Dr Myers has developed a transition-to-career framework that includes a student internship program with local IT industry partners, building a strong IT community within JCU and also with the Townsville ICT community using social media and developing team building teaching methods to engage students in class.
Dr Myers facilitated the very active Facebook IT@JCU group, which is now fully managed by students, that links current and past students, local industry partners, teaching staff and local high school students in the same forum to share and discuss technical information and news.
“In the past, students were not aware of the many companies they could apply to in Townsville and felt they needed to move as soon as they graduated, which has been a constant drain of local home-grown IT talent for many years.”
JCU Media Liaison: Caroline Kaurila, tel: (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175
First published October 17, 2014