A roundtable discussion inspired by the research and held in Toronto looked at another danger – a lack of soft skills in and proper workforce preparation for future IT professionals.The survey was conducted online with students from Grade 11 through second-year university. It found that while 92 per cent of all students said that it is somewhat to very important to have technological experience to be successful in their careers, only 42 per cent of the respondees said that their school encouraged them to develop computer and technological skills.

Neville Samuell, a second-year mechatronics engineering student at the University of Waterloo, said that he did not find the survey results surprising. He said that many students today get better technology experience out of editing a blog or creating a MySpace page than going to their school’s traditional computer class.

“There’s no way high schools can keep up technologically,” said Eugene Fiume, a computer science professor with the University of Toronto.

But Canada is unique, according to Microsoft Canada academic program manager Daniel Shapiro, in that most households in Canada now have a computer and that gaps in students’ computer education can often be covered at home or with friends.

Margaret Evered, a CIPS consultant and member, said that computer classes should be mandatory for all students at as many levels of high school as possible.

“There will be a huge divide. The (people who don’t know how to use computers) will be the illiterates of tomorrow,” Evered said.

A more comprehensive digital media studies class might draw in more students, Fiume suggested.

These types of computing classes, along with other industry-specific options (like biotechnology, graphic design or nanotechnology, for example) are often unknown to guidance counselors, who don’t stream students – especially girls – into IT, according to Evered.

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