• Young tech enthusiasts are not pursuing careers in IT
• The local IT industry needs to seek new directions
• Business plus tech academic programs will attract talent"
Interest and passion around technology, particularly consumer technology, is at an all-time-high among teenagers in Hong Kong. Young enthusiasts line up overnight for the opening of Hong Kong's first Apple store, MTR carriages are filled with people tweeting, surfing, and even talking on their mobile phones and/or tablets. But ironically, such passion doesn't inspire them to pursue a career in technology.
"I'm interested in computer hardware system and multimedia," said Gary Fong, president of the Hong Kong Joint School Electronics and Computing Society (HKJSECS) in 2009-2010.
HKJSECS is a student organization to promote interest in electronics and computer studies among their peers. But Fong himself wasn't inspired to study IT. He's currently a student at Chinese University Hong Kong (CUHK) majoring in Government and Public Administration.
"I picked a major other than IT for many different reasons," he said, following by explaining about his interest in politics. "Last but not least, low-ranking IT techs and engineers are not reputable in the eyes of Hong Kong managers and executives," he added.
That last (but not least) reason appears to be the major factor that's holding back many students from pursuing a career in IT.
But Fong isn't the only one. The latest admission data from Joint University Programmes Admission further demonstrates that computer-related majors have lost their edge, when comparing admission data between computer science, finance and accounting.
The data shows that mainly grade-C or lower students are admitted to the computer science programs, while finance and accounting programs attracts grade-A students. Although HKUST is known for its tech programs, the admission Computer Science (Information Engineering) number was so low that the median score was not available.
Even among students who took the computing program, not all graduates are keen to join the industry. Michael Fung, a Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Poly U) Computing graduate, chose a different career path soon after graduation. Currently a sales director at Panasia Cinema Advertising, Fung decided IT was not for him after his practicum year, but also found opportunities within IT are limited.
"In Hong Kong, with a degree in IT you usually go the path of programming or support--neither role is core to non-tech businesses and are easily replaced because of the prevalence of outsourcing service providers," he said. "The future [for IT pros] looks even gloomier as there are tons of high quality programmers [available] at low cost in China today."
The scenario is found not only in Hong Kong, said Keith Chan, acting dean of students at Poly U. Chan, previously head of Department of Computing, said the trend of declining admission rates for computer science and IT-related academic programs is global.