Developing new skills for the future
The latest ITSMF UK Midlands and East Anglia Regional meeting in September was hosted by the University of Northampton, with the over-arching theme of People and Skills. Chris Roberts reports.
The need to reassess our skills requirements is on everyone’s agenda at the moment, and it was a fitting theme for the latest Midlands and East Anglia region event. Regional chair David Backham had pulled together an interesting and diverse range of topics, with presentations and workshops covering various aspects of the skills agenda.
New skills for tomorrow’s professionals
After the usual introductions and updates, Sandra Whittleston from the University of Northampton gave a presentation entitled ‘New routes to skills development in the UK’. This looked in some detail at ITSM and the skills agenda, education (including CPD) and future opportunities. The session reviewed the challenges around the current IT skills shortage and its effect on the economy and on business effectiveness, amid a growing reliance on computer-based technologies and the need for speed to market. The changing technology landscape was described with its complex supply chain, ever larger volumes of data and greater mobility of end users.
From the academic perspective, today’s students need to enter the job market with some business acumen and a focus on service as well as technology. At the moment many universities still have separate business and computing courses, with computing still being largely code-based. This is not helped by the fact that the universities’ computing courses are based on a requirements specification written in 2007, whereas the business students are utilising a more current 2015 version. For too many students, service management remains an unknown quantity until they reach the workplace; it would be much better, Sandra Whittleston argued, to get them involved in ITSM early in their studies, with greater opportunities for work placement and internships.
In conclusion, it was suggested that the most valuable areas of study for IT/business students preparing for the jobs market should include ITSM frameworks, service and business concepts, logistics and supply chain management.
As a separate element Sandra Whittleston announced that a strategic partnership between the University of Northampton and Fujitsu Services had been signed just before the event. This would include the opportunity for student site visits to Fujitsu’s Stevenage facility, as well as mentoring and guest speakers and student project work and research for second-year business and IT students.
SFIA – the next steps
After a brief break for refreshments, we had an excellent presentation on ‘SFIA – using job roles’, by Matthew Burrows of BSMimpact on behalf of the SFIA Foundation, outlining some significant developments in the recently launched SFIA version 6 (June 2015).
Version 6 of SFIA – Skills Framework for the Information Age – has 97 skills all with 7 levels of responsibility, with six categories and sub categories. It is currently used in 200 countries to help develop role profiles and job descriptions, identify education and training needs and support the recruitment process for professionals in IT-related functions.
Each individual level/category has a detailed description, used by both HR professionals and employees to assist in their career development. SFIA tools have been developed for self-assessment and to help interviewers to assess and validate a candidate’s capabilities.
The new skills added in v6 included Digital Forensics and Penetration Testing. Some organisations are using the framework on a corporate level to identify which skills are in short supply or completely absent; from there they can begin to determine whether the skills are genuinely missing from the workforce or whether staff already have those skills from a previous employment (but unused in their current role).
Major SFIA users include the Australian Government, US Navy and Disney Corporation, and support for the framework is increasing across AsiaPac as well as Europe and the USA.
After his presentation, Matthew Burrows invited each delegate over the lunch break to do a self-assessment of their skills and competency levels using v6. It was suggested that each delegate choose one or two competencies and score them against the key criteria of Autonomy, Influence, Complexity and Business Skills.
Reports from the Masters
The next item on the day’s agenda was a Skype link-up with former MSc in Service Management students, based in UK and Europe. This was a very interesting session with each past student given five minutes to discuss and answer questions about how they are now using the skills and benefits of the MSc course.
- Daniel Mangani (Analyst, Malta Government) found that the degree helped him in his research work, and in understanding problem management.
- Alex Cartlidge (Asset Inventory Process Manager at the European Central Bank) talked about the help that his studies provided in developing business presentations and using ITSM tools. On a day to basis he now uses these skills for gap analysis of software services.
- For Aminu Seidu (Network Engineer at University of Northampton) the degree gave him the confidence to give business presentations and get to grips with the ITIL ‘lingo’.
The rise of CPD
David Backham then gave a brief background presentation about Continual Professional Development (CPD), starting with a history of work and the evolution through the ages of the concept of careers. From here he discussed the need for lifelong learning and adapting, and where CPD can help your development and improve productivity. He referenced a University of Warwick study on career progression models, with its four types – Evaluative, Strategic, Aspirational and Opportunistic.
David’s introduction segued smoothly into the final session of the day, a presentation from John Tomlinson on the recently launched AXELOS Professional Development Programme, which started appropriately with a quote from Newton D. Baker: “The person who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.”
The AXELOS programme uses a skills framework for reference and a CPD model to assess and plan learning and development and show ongoing activity.
The AXELOS Skills Framework covers both ITIL and PRINCE2, referencing the European e-Competence Framework (e-CF) v3 and ICB3 Framework from the IPMA. Whilst the SFIA framework is more comprehensive, as it covers many more skills, the AXELOS framework is nonetheless ideally suited for professionals assessing their ITIL and PRINCE2 competencies.
The AXELOS CPD model is based on a Plan, Do, Check, Act continual improvement cycle (the outer ring), where an individual will perform a self-assessment and determine their training needs, acquire the identified skills and then assess their successful acquisition. CPD is accumulated in four main areas: Professional Experience, Training, Community Participation and Self Study.
The programme’s requirement is for an individual to acquire 20 points each year to demonstrate their commitment to CPD. This achievement is linked to the award of a digital badge, a set of metadata that an individual can present to an employer.
Wrapping up the event, David Backham thanked the delegates for attending and getting involved and in particular Sandra Whittleston for hosting the event and supplying the tasty refreshments.
Chris Roberts is principal of WiderViewPR.co.uk and an experienced communications and imaging professional