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BUSINESS TODAY 11 August 2022

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5.12.19 12 BUSINESS 11.08.2022 Alexiei Dingli and Rose Marie Azzopardi Prof Alexiei Dingli, Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Prof Rose Marie Azzopardi, Professor of Economics, are the lead researchers on this three-year project Everyone needs to learn computing F ive hundred businesses, educators and thought leaders just got to- gether and wrote a letter stating that every student in compulsory school- ing needs to learn computing! Most of these people are world-re- nowned and range from Bill Gates (Founder, Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Founder, Amazon), Tim Cook (CEO, Apple), Sundar Pichai (CEO, Google), David Solomon (Chairman, Goldman Sachs) and many others. But they're not alone in crying for this change; parents, students, teachers, and employers also support their call. Computing is not only a subject essen- tial for those working in technology. It is crucial as much as the numeracy and literacy core components because most jobs use computers today. Even if they don't use computers now, they will start doing so in the coming years. But it's not only that; computing teaches children how to think and solve problems creatively, a desirable skill in this day and age. Recent studies have shown that students who learn comput- ing at school tend to outperform their peers in schools, universities and the workplace. When digital technology is seeping into every workplace, schools should be at the forefront to prepare our fu- ture generation of workers. ey should teach students to understand emerging technologies and push them towards becoming creators rather than just con- sumers. After all, we are preparing our stu- dents for jobs that don't exist. We can't keep teaching twenty-first-century chil- dren using methodologies of the twen- tieth-century in a nineteenth-century school model. Unfortunately, only a few lucky ones manage to get the skills to survive in this new digital world, leaving many students behind, especially those from the most disadvantaged groups. In Malta, only around 15% of students study computing. is figure is not only unacceptable but also rather worrying considering our growing dependency on technology. It is not surprising that employers are constantly searching for ICT profes- sionals, with some sectors reporting shocking shortages. ere have been various improvements in recent years, but we need to do more. e following are the reasons why: • Every child needs to be prepared for the future. ey should have the opportunity to learn comput- ing from their early years up to the end of secondary school, and it should be considered a core subject. • e supply of computing devic- es to every child should proceed in secondary schools so that stu- dents learn to use a computer while also using it for other tasks. Let's not forget that one of the factors which the pandemic un- veiled is the digital disparity be- tween families who could afford a computer per child and those who couldn't. • Remote work is opening new op- portunities for everyone. Employ- ees can pursue careers anywhere around the globe, thus providing them with a higher source of in- come whilst still living in their community. • ere's a world shortage of ICT professionals. e USA needs around 700,000 professionals and Europe about half a million. e number of graduates yearly is much less, close to 12%, yet the demands are constantly increas- ing. Learning computing is not just about knowing how to use technology. at's a small part of it. e most significant chunk is analysing problems methodi- cally, a skill acquired from most STEM subjects and using technology to identi- fy plausible solutions creatively. As Albert Einstein once said, "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we creat- ed them." So all of us have to do our tiny part. More companies, irrespective of their industry, are creating new opportuni- ties in tech. But all this hard work will be useless if our upcoming workforce is unprepared for this. Furthermore, with the coming tsuna- mi of digitalisation that will hit us in the coming years, one thing is for sure, there will be a lot of disruptions since digital skills will become extremely val- uable. Because of this, workers must start a reskilling or upskilling process, thus making them more flexible to work in the future labour market. Most importantly, we need an over- haul of our educational system so that computing becomes part of the core re- quirements. e truth is that even though there are various initiatives by different govern- ment agencies, the private sector and other NGOs, they will never manage to produce enough people to satisfy the rising demand. At most, they can inspire students to choose that speciali- sation, but this is not enough. It's also important to clarify that by adding computing as a core subject, we don't envisage everyone becoming an ICT expert. But if a person is equipped with ICT skills, he can apply them to other sectors like pharmacy, architec- ture, medicine or even agriculture. By doing so, those fields of study start a much-needed wave of technological innovation, thus spurring more produc- tivity, increased efficiencies and lower- ing costs. e time is ticking because we will see the result of today's actions in a decade, so let's start today before it is too late! To tackle these challenges, the HSBC Malta Foundation is sponsoring e Human Capital Research Project. is is supported by the Ministry of Educa- tion, the Malta Chamber of Commerce, the Malta Business Bureau, the Univer- sity of Malta and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology. e project aims to analyse the current and future economic environments, as- sessing their impact on Malta's labour market while also highlighting the skills needed. Further details can be found at CapitalResearchProject

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