IT exec urges hike in education spend

Canada needs to create superior higher education institutions and parents should be willing to pay higher tuition for their children, to help address an emergency in IT labour shortage, according to the head of CGI Group.

“We are currently experiencing a very real education and manpower crisis in IT,” Michael Roach, president and CEO of the Montreal-based systems integrator, told the Toronto Board of Trade recently.

The demand for IT professionals is at a 25-year high, he said, but while there are more job openings universities and colleges are graduating fewer students in IT-related disciplines.

Between 2000 and 2005, enrolment in computer science courses dropped 70 per cent, he said. It was a time of the dot-com bubble bursting and the rise of India as an IT power. Still, he said, computer science can offer “significant opportunities for our young people right here in Canada.”

To address this decline industry has to take its case for the value of science, technology and related education directly to parents and students, he said, and long before they go to university.

Canada also has to hike government spending on education, he said, which dropped from 6.2 per cent of gross domestic product to 4.6 per cent between 1995 and 2002.

“As parents, we need to be ready to invest in our children’s future by paying more in tuition fees to ensure that they are being fully equipped for success,” Roach said.

Roach noted parents discourage their children from going into technology after reading news reports about huge numbers of IT graduates pouring out of Asian schools.

Not everyone has to take computer science, he suggested .“We need arts and business grads, we need project managers,” he said.

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