Research has shown that while technical skills are important to recruiters, soft skills and the ability to communicate with clients to apply technical knowledge are paramount (Jones et al, 2017). In times of stress, such as when someone calls a help desk for support, the ability to communicate effectively, be perceptive and responsive (Salomonson, 2012; Vu et al, 2020), and to know how to deescalate the situation are crucial to an organization’s resilience. A recent longitudinal study (Aasheim et al, 2019) looked at the knowledge and skills that recruiters look for in IT professionals and found that interpersonal skills were most valued. At the same time, these types of skills vary between individuals from different cultures, and Ahmed et al (2012) found that the professional skills required by IT support professionals vary between cultures, indicating that direct inclusion of these skills is crucial for newcomers in IT training programs, as echoed in other recent research (Dubey & Tiwari, 2020; Ibrahim et al 2017; Szilard et al, 2018) citing a disconnect between training programs and workplace demands.
In response to the gap between workplace needs and current training offerings for the growing numbers of IT service desk technician positions, Opening New Pathways to Digital Skills: A Bridge for Newcomers takes an assessment-first and competency-based approach to preparing newcomer learners for the current and future job market in Alberta. Although four other IT service technician programs exist in the province, Opening New Pathways to Digital Skills: A Bridge for Newcomers is unique in developing the culturally reflexive skills that will help newcomers find employment commensurate with their skills. In particular, this project will take an assessment-first approach, incorporate competency-based education, include two specially designed scenarios, allow learners to connect with workplaces through work-integrated learning, and provide a pathway to access more digitally-intensive programs such as data management or cloud computing. Because of the partnership between the School of Technology and the School of Global Access at Bow Valley College, each school brings complementary expertise. The School of Technology will contribute to the technical side of the program development, while the School of Global Access will ensure that content is culturally and linguistically appropriate for newcomer learners.
Stay tuned for upcoming dates for the pilot and learner information sessions.