IT professionals have the technical skills needed to land jobs, but most lack the soft skills many employers look for today.

La Trobe University in Melbourne has announced a new degree – a Bachelor of Humanities, Innovation and Technology – aimed at combining technical skills of IT with the communication and critical thinking of humanities.

Head of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at La Trobe University, Professor Nick Bisley, said CEOs and scientists have long been calling for graduates with training across humanities, business, and technology.

“Digital disruption is opening up a Pandora’s box of exciting opportunities as well as raising complex societal and ethical questions,” Professor Bisley said.

“For example, while big data offers opportunities for companies to increase their efficiency and make better informed decisions, it also raises fundamental questions around privacy and increased cyber security risk.”

As tech continues to take on new territories, its innovation has ushered some unexpected ethical consequences around the use of AI and big data, surveillance, and the rise of fake news.

Digitally disrupted markets have opened new doors for IT – which remains a field with high wages growth despite a stagnating national average – but a shortage in local skills means importing workers for jobs that require certain expertise.

Will Calvert, Director of Technology and Enablement at RMIT Online, thinks current workers can respond to the shortage with more training.

“The reality is, the degree we studied at 22 will not keep pace with the speed of technology, and to remain relevant we need to shift our mindset to a ‘lifelong learning’ approach to education,” he said.

“Ideally this means upskilling at least once a year – even with short, sharp skill-based learning.

“While some skills can be picked up through on-the-job training, this can be sometimes skewed towards the business’ way of doing things, and we should not be leaving the incredible importance of upskilling to chance.”

To upskill or not to upskill

The World Economic Forum estimated that more than half of the world’s workforce needs to re- or up-skill by 2022 in response to automation like bots that write code.

Success stories in IT are as varied as the sector itself.

Young baristas and former military personnel can become well-paid cyber specialists, and corporate lawyers can become entrepreneurs.

For Marie-Claire Ross, CEO and Founder of business building firm, Trustologie, the IT profession overall would be healthier with more people evaluating whether they want to develop specialist skills or learn how to lead others towards their best performance.

“The career ladder is breaking because for too long technical experts have been promoted to leadership positions, despite having little experience with leading others,” she said.

“If you want to be a technical expert, then you can decide which technical skills to build upon.

“For best results, weekly learning is optimal whether that be from reading blogs or books on the topic, practising new techniques, or joining meet-ups and learning from experts.

“But if you decide you want to lead others, then you need to learn how to build trust because it is central to improving relationships and high performance.”

According to a report released by Deloitte in June, there is an increasing need for ‘skills of the heart’ – like leadership and communication – over technical know-how.

Founder of Aussie start-up Mind Navigator, Ami Cook, tends to favour the kind of training that complements technical skills.

“As organisations shift to new operating models in order to remain competitive, IT professionals will need to focus on how they think, interact and respond to complexity, not just their technical capabilities.

“This means developing communication and collaboration skills and the ability to coordinate multiple perspectives in their decision-making.

“These 'human-centric' skills are not only important for career advancement within the current work environment but also planning for the future of work, as automation of certain technical tasks increases.”