RAC’EM UP: CMS Researches Core IT Competencies

2010-2011 Issue 1

Assessing Job-Related Skills to Increase Employment Opportunities

How do you get the knowledge and skills gained from years of on the- job high-tech experience recognized, especially if you have little or even no formal education in that area? A new project at Career and Management Studies (CMS) aims to answer that timely question.

According to The Montreal Gazette and the Conference Board of Canada, there is a large deficit of skilled information technology (IT) workers. Over the next five years, The Gazette estimates that 60,000 new IT professionals will be needed in the Montreal area alone, while the Conference Board estimates a shortfall of approximately 150,000 information and communications technology workers across Canada. “Since there are few formal skills assessments for many IT positions, it makes it difficult for some individuals to advance in their careers even though they may have acquired substantial expertise at work,” says Dr. Carmen Sicilia, Director of CMS. “That can also make it difficult to properly assess and stream such workers in continuing education programs and courses, because their technical knowledge may never have been formally recognized.”

In a two-year project funded by the Ministère de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS), McGill’s CMS IT instructors in two programs – the Certificate in Systems Analysis and Design, and the Diploma in Internet Business Technology – will evaluate their courses from the Recognition of Acquired Competencies (RAC) perspective. Two area CEGEPs – John Abbott College and Champlain College – are also involved in this RAC project.

The three major aims of the RAC-based research are to clearly identify what learning outcomes or skills a learner can expect to acquire from each course, to develop the appropriate assessment tools to evaluate those learning outcomes, and to test the effectiveness of the assessment tools.

Given the wide range of IT activities – from setting up a physical network or building a server, to analyzing software programs – it’s no surprise that the CMS IT instructors will likely propose a wide variety of competency-testing tools. “We want to ensure that the assessment methods are appropriate for each learning outcome. Depending on the course, there could be a conventional test, physical activity, a demonstration, an oral presentation, a portfolio or a combination of these,” says Sicilia.

The ultimate goal of the RAC project is a lofty one – and a perfect fit for McGill CCE. It aims to increase educational opportunities for people such as the un- or underemployed as well as new immigrants. CMS’s RAC project will help identify what knowledge and skills such individuals have and what they’re lacking, in order to make their path in continuing education – and in the workplace – a lot smoother and more rewarding.

And once the IT project is completed, Sicilia says that “the long term goal is to learn from this pilot project and evaluate the effectiveness of the assessment tools so that we can adapt them for other programs.” The RAC project kicks off this fall. Stay tuned for updates.

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