OP-ED BY SEAN MORROW
Over the last couple of years it seems that there has been a lot of talk about ships in Nova Scotia - building ships to be exact.
Although the potential around this does seem promising, I find it surprising how many Nova Scotians regard this deal as the savour of our economy and the draw needed to get young workers back into our province. There is another industry that has been booming away right here in Nova Scotia for a decade. I am speaking of Information Technology.
There is no debate around the growth in IT. In all sorts of communities throughout Nova Scotia, start-up companies are happily excelling in their niches. Small companies are steadily growing into large companies. Even larger companies are being drawn to Nova Scotia to set up shop. Nevertheless, regardless of their size they are all looking for one thing: skilled IT professionals and the cold hard fact is they are having trouble finding them.
But it wasn’t always this way. Let me take you back to the turn of the millennium. For many of us in the IT industry, this was a time that could easily be referred to as our own personal “Black Monday”. It all started in the late 90s with investors dropping large sums of money into the “dot com” companies on the sheer promise of them producing the next big innovative web-based product. The web was a new thing to the general public back then and the excitement of its potential was an easy draw for investors.
Start-up technology companies found themselves with massive surpluses of cash flow. Needless to say, it was a good time to be a programmer or technician. Then the bubble burst – a pop that resonated across the country leaving in its path bankrupt companies and unemployed IT professionals. It only took a small amount of time for that faith and optimism in IT to vanish from the minds of investors, but it was the bad press around the entire industry that lasted a lot longer. People took notice and confidence was shattered.
It was around this time that I started teaching at the Nova Scotia Community College in the Information Technology program. Happy to be out of the industry for the time being, I focused my energies on my teaching skills and delivering the best content I could to help these young students of mine to be ready for the big world. The unfortunate part was that there really wasn’t much of a destination in the IT industry in Nova Scotia. I recall many students asking me what the job prospects were, only to see me cringe and deliver them the hard truth.
But that was then, and this is now. The IT industry recovered. It retooled, rebuilt and reformed into a thriving industry. There was a time when I had to chase employers to take our students for co-op placements, but now they call me – a lot. There is a massive demand and as an educator it’s exciting to be part of the solution – but I am missing the key component – learners. It is hard to comprehend that in the middle of the mobile device revolution, the dawn of a huge shift in the way we consume media, and the beginnings of large scale data mining that our industry is experiencing a lack of interest among the young. Sadly, this is the case.
So consider this a public service announcement – a call to all Nova Scotians. Learn to setup a network. Learn to code. Design a video game. Learn to speak in acronyms. If you are a parent, encourage your kids to embrace geeky pursuits if they wish. Send them to post-secondary schools to learn even more. There is an industry in Nova Scotia that is eager to grow and all it needs is a new wave of learners to make it happen. Because I personally believe that not only do ships start here in Nova Scotia, but chips start here as well – of the computer variety, of course.
Sean Morrow is an instructor of Information Technology at the Nova Scotia Community College Truro Campus.