Sunday, 20 December 2009

First Article published in the University of Exeter's student newspaper, Exepose

In Thomas L Friedman’s acclaimed book, ‘The World Is Flat’, he asserts that the recent ‘explosion’ of technologies across the globe is ‘flattening’ the world we live in by connecting knowledge and resources from Poland to Papua New Guinea and back. His lax use of the term ‘flat’ in physical terms shouldn’t detract from his message; we’re in competition with people from countries whose names we can’t even spell. They’re competent, IT literate, and they want the jobs that we do.

With the press prophesying utter disaster for graduates and indeed every jobseeker, it’s more important now than ever before that we equip ourselves with the skills we need to get jobs. One thing that struck me from Friedman’s book was that every single person he covered worked with a computer. From the call centre worker in Bangalore to Google’s number crunchers in San Francisco, IT skills are almost considered a pre-requisite for the acquisition of employment. Typing isn’t enough any more, you either touch type or you learn how to, and fast. As a first year English student, this scares me. I like pen and paper, always have done, I enjoy writing, not typing, so I stuck with the old routine and now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like a bit of a fool. Reading through the job ads in newspapers makes me feel a bit inadequate when lightening fast abilities with Excel and Publisher are the norm, or so it would seem.

Jobs, as most of us already know, are increasingly harder to come by these days and when computers are ubiquitous in offices, one must ask if graduates without IT skills are even skilled at all. Evidently this depends on your definition of what constitutes a ‘being skilled’, but rendering yourself only partially employable is probably not a good idea. Currently, approximately 13 million people in the UK alone work in front of or with computers and this number is growing. With companies outsourcing their manufacturing and in some cases their tertiary operations, it would appear that we don’t have much choice but to move into the western world’s relatively new brand of higher level technological services. Still, the fact remain the same, although America is still the world’s largest manufacturer, producing 75% of what it consumes, this figure is down from 90% just ten years ago, showing a substantial shift towards China and India. We, as the workforce of tomorrow must constantly upgrade our skills in order to keep up with the pattern of jobs in our economy. The fundamental point being that factually, jobs which don’t require computer skills are moving elsewhere and those that do remain here; we need to innovate to stimulate our development before we get left behind.

Some would argue, and I was one of these people, that employers and companies have lost sight of character and the sanctity of the written word in favour of vigourous mouse-clickers and spreadsheet addicts but essentially facts need to be faced. Inadequacy with computers is simply restricting your own chances of standing out in that ever- swelling pool of jobseekers.

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