IT job definition receives major expansion

For those having trouble wading through all of the tech jargon and three-letter acronyms prevalent in the IT business, the Software Human Resource Council has a plan – at least when it come to defining job titles.

The SHRC has launched version two of its Occupational Skills Profile Model (OSPM) that now clearly defines 24 job definitions for the IT sector. The announcement was made on June 11, at the CATA’s GlobeTech conference, held recently in Ottawa.

The updated model is geared at clearly defining IT software workers, an aspect that had been absent until now.

“There was no real definition of who we’ve been talking about. Until now, the gathering of statistics has been on a programmer, computer operators or analysts because that’s the only three codes the government used,” said Ottawa-based Paul Swinwood, SHRC’s president. This will help in retention strategies, as companies, government and educational institutions can now implement specific programs and strategies in place to address where shortages are, and why at the guru level, individuals abandon Canada for the U.S., he said.

Swinwood characterized the second version as an infinite work in progress. “Welcome to the high-tech sector. This dictionary will continue to evolve as the industry evolves.” The federal government was presented with the dictionary, and has since adopted 21 of the 24 definitions as new national occupation classification systems. It gives the government something concrete to use in doing labour market analysis, he said.

The model has brought about an important understanding that the IT sector is not limited to communications and the technology sector, but branches over to industries not traditionally known as IT. “The oil industry is creating new hardware and software, but they’re not in the ITC (information technology and communications) sector, but they sure are in the software sector,” he said.

CATA president John Reid believes the re-vamped OSPM model will finally address a major problem that exists in the Canadian market place. “The driving force is that we’ve traditionally had very poor forecasting tools when it comes to projecting occupational needs.” In addition, the model vastly improves the description of the skills sets needed in the software industry, Reid said. “If I’m a university or a training institution, I then know specifically the kinds of skills I need to develop as part of my curriculum.”

This will work to the advantage of students, who will no longer spend thousands of dollars on an education that may not lead to employment, he said. They can now focus on where the demand is in the industry and gain the necessary skills accordingly. And from the industries vantage point, “the people you are hiring have the specific skills sets that you need”, Reid said. This is a benchmark, an early victory in occupational forecasting, he said.

For over a decade, CIPS has pursued the goal of defining what the IT sector is, responding to industry changes. For the past president of CIPS, Marilyn Harris, the expansion to 24 classifications is a positive move. “The expansion to 24 is significant progress. This is something that will help clearly define the sector,” said Harris, a consultant affiliated with KLR Consulting in Vancouver. Anything that improves how we examine the IT sector and those that make it their profession, will only attract more individuals to make IT a career path, she said.

“IT is a relatively young industry, maybe 40 years old, and this puts us on the road for maturer things (by) helping define what an IT professional is.”