Fewer grads not bad news to all

Reports that enrolments in computer science courses in Canadian universities are on the slide, and have been for five years, sends a variety of messages to those in the IT community who will be affected by such a trend.

Universities themselves seem to be an obvious victim upon first blush. Fewer kids enrolling in what was once a red-hot and, dare we say, hip line of study doesn’t look good on paper. However, as long as those kids are choosing to go into another program and not ditching post-secondary education altogether in favour of the European backpacking odyssey, the tuition fees will still be pouring into the schools’ coffers.

It’s safe to say, though, that schools such as the University of Western Ontario, which have carved a niche in computing courses, will feel the effects of this spiraling effect moreso than other pedagogical palaces specializing in other disciplines.

The findings are also bad news for technology vendors — hence Microsoft’s move to get involved in encouraging students to think about tech as a career option.

For vendors, it’s a simple equation: fewer students coming out of computer science programs means a smaller pool of talent to choose from. Which in turn means they will inevitably have to pay higher salaries in order to retain the talent they do hire.

Which brings us to the primary group that stands to benefit from the dwindling enrollment trend. Those students who do pursue computer science degrees will have less competition for the many jobs awaiting them in the work world. The jobs aren’t going away, either; there is still a smorgasbord of positions offered up by both the big players such as Microsoft and IBM and the many startups looking for the brightest and the best talent coming out of university.

Another group that can’t be looking upon the findings with too many tears is the current group of developers, programmers and other IT professionals gainfully employed and well-ensconced in their careers. With fewer grads coming up behind them to provide competition for the jobs laid out on their respective career paths, perhaps they can breathe a little bit easier, knowing that that path might be a little bit smoother.

Overall, however, the trend does not bode well for the development of IT in Canada and our attempts to become a bigger tech influence on the global stage. From that perspective, hopefully the trend will move in the other direction soon.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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