This is a debate article. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.
DEBATE. If Sweden is to continue to be a leading IT nation, we need to make new initiatives in schools. Here is an industry that lacks manpower and students who must receive the right education for the jobs of the future.
The lack of IT skills is extensive in the country. According to the latest figures from the IT and Telecom companies, 70,000 people will be missing in just three years unless strong measures are taken.
The digital transition, accelerated by the corona pandemic, has led to high demand for digital solutions such as video conferencing, cloud services and e-commerce. To meet demand, innovative companies and knowledgeable employees are needed who develop and maintain digital infrastructure and digital services. But it all starts at school. Students must receive the right education, otherwise we will in the near future have such a great shortage of educated labor that it risks affecting the whole society.
Already seven years ago, NTI upper secondary school stated that changes in education are needed. IT & Telecom companies have year after year alerted about a lack of skills. Now the situation is urgent. To meet and drive technological development, new and more knowledge is needed from more people.
In the upper secondary school and compulsory school curriculum, the importance of digital competence is projected, but there are no national overall goals for how IT should be integrated into teaching. The National Agency for Education needs to change this. The intention with the national digitalisation strategy is admittedly good, but in practice not much happens. Who takes responsibility so that Sweden moves on?
If Sweden is to maintain its competitiveness, the government also needs to commission the National Agency for Education to create a national upper secondary school program with a clear focus on IT. Today, the supply of basic education in the field is severely limited.
Of the 61 specializations within upper secondary school, only two offer IT-related courses. For those students who, for example, study the Technology Program’s specialization in information and media technology, the specialization opportunity in IT comprises only 400 upper secondary school credits out of 2,500.
In addition, programming is not even a compulsory course in the technology program. It is remarkable when programming is considered as important as being able to read, write and count in the labor market of the future.
For those students who are interested in IT and are going to make their high school choice, there is no national program to apply for. The offer only offers the professional specialization computer and communication technology, which is about IT, strangely enough under the electricity and energy program. A change is absolutely necessary. To get more people to train to get jobs in the tech industry, a nationally pure IT program is needed.
We believe that a change must take place immediately. Companies should not have to turn down assignments because they lack employees with the right skills. Many jobs are thus lost. This means a threat to Swedish competitiveness and a betrayal of the students who, in the worst case, lose jobs they should have had a chance at because they do not have the right knowledge.
Now the school needs the opportunity to adapt to match the development of society. Investments are also needed to get more people to educate themselves and take the step to jobs in the tech industry.
We who represent the school and the industry are prepared to take our responsibility. We assume that the government and the National Agency for Education do the same. If the state does not gather strength to gain competence for the labor market of the future, Sweden will be helplessly lagging behind as an IT nation.
Sara Stridfeldt, headmaster of NTI Gymnasiet
Ellen Lindqvist, headmaster of NTI Gymnasiet
Erik Isaksson, headmaster of NIT Gymnasiet
Pernilla Öhberg, international coordinator & APL strategist, NTI Gymnasiet