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The University of Southampton
Southampton Education School

Research project: What do IT technicians do? The roles and qualifications of IT professionals at intermediate levels.

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In November 2015, the government announced plans for ‘ground-breaking’ reforms to technical and professional education with the aim to ‘set England’s system on a par with the best in the world’ (Department for Education, 2015). The aim is to simplify what is regarded as ‘an over-complex system’ and to ensure the system delivers ‘the skills most needed for the 21st century economy’. The government plans to create 15 new technical education routes, which will enable young people to move into an apprenticeship, to progress to Higher Education, or to move directly into skilled employment (BIS and DfE, 2016).

The system of qualifications and training in IT is a case in point. There is currently a diversity of routes into IT, with a vast array of qualifications available at different levels. What is less known is how these qualifications are developed, how and whether they map onto the labour market and reflect employer demand.

The aim of the study is to enhance understanding of the roles that IT technicians fulfil in the workplace and the type, status and content of the education and training provision that prepares them for these roles. The findings will inform the development of technical routes in the digital sector. The research questions are:

  • What are the current qualifications and training routes to prepare for IT occupations at intermediate levels (3, 4 and 5)?
  • How is the underpinning knowledge required for these occupations developed in a context of rapidly advancing technology?
  • What are the knowledge, skills and competences that employers are looking for in IT technicians?
  • How do IT tutors perceive the content and structure of the courses they teach and how do them see them fitting with employment demands?
  • What are the learners’ views on their training courses and relevance to the workplace?

Because of the diversity of roles and qualifications in IT, and the lack of available information on IT technicians, it was decided to adopt an exploratory, qualitative approach. The research took place in two stages and involved: documentary research and semi-structured interviews with sector-level bodies, followed by semi-structured interviews with employers, FE colleges and private training providers, as well as learners. All participant organisations were located in London and the South East of England.

Funding body: The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, London

Duration: April to December 2016.

Related research groups

Centre for Research in Inclusion
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