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Computing Professionals: Changing Needs for the 1990s
were areas of agreement, the community lacks consensus regarding career paths and core knowledge or skills, in part because of the widely shared view that the field—and therefore any related career path—is so dynamic. Workshop discussions centered on two themes: the appropriateness of the education of entry-level personnel, and the need for periodic retraining to keep personnel in the labor force up to date.
Pierce spoke for many when she remarked that, with technology changing in cycles as short as two and a half years, ''the ability to forecast and prepare for this future skill mix will certainly grow more complex in the future." William Gear sketched out how the evolution of the field may translate into rising educational requirements for those engaged in computer-based technology development:
Down at the very lowest level, you might even find people with associate degrees helping some very small company in some minor way with modifications of spreadsheet software . . . . In the future we are going to . . . see those people go through a [4-year] degree program that is heavy in the application area, probably not a major in computer science or management information systems, whatever it is called, but a minor to develop the necessary computational computer science skills and a major in the primary area of application.
Gear suggested that the trend toward embedding more and more computer devices or systems into other equipment or systems will result in significant new skill requirements and potential problems in meeting them.
The unresolved question is whether skill needs will be met in the classroom or on the job. Education and training are not preordained outcomes; they present choices for multiple parties—individual students, educators, and employers—whose outlooks often differ considerably. Ian Rose articulated the tensions between the interests of the individual in career development planning (including personal choices in education, training, and jobs to nurture his or her own career as a computing professional) and the interests of the employing organization (for which the individual's needs are secondary) in skills assessment and succession planning. James Williams, chair of the Department of Information Science at the University of Pittsburgh, pointed to the need for career counseling: "[People] need some kind of help because they don't have time to pay attention to all the nuances of what is happening in industry. They are busy doing their work." Participants from industry echoed Williams' assessment that planning for both education and training involves shared responsibilities.