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IT WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT IN THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA: EVOLUTION, TRENDS, AND OPPORTUNITIES
July 27, 2020 @ 10:10 am
Emerging digital technologies are changing the structure of the value chain at the international level and Moldova needs to change its strategic approach to align with global trends. Given the current context defined by the global pandemic of Covid-19, an important role in the development of the IT sector in Moldova relates to education. This was the conclusion of a study conducted by the “Enterprise Incubator Foundation” at the request of the National Association of Private ICT Companies (ATIC) earlier this year. The research showed that in order to maintain its economic competitiveness, Moldova must adopt a strategic position based on reforming IT education. This is due to a deficit in skills increasing in parallel with the development of the industry, and education must be aligned to cope with these developments going into the future.
The Moldovan IT industry has grown rapidly in recent years, being one of the main catalysts for economic development. Data showed that in 2019:
- the IT sector had a 6% contribution to the country’s GDP;
- exports of IT services and products reached $198 million;
- 10.5% of total exports of services from Moldova belonged to the IT sector;
- 95% of the revenue obtained from the export of services was from companies in software development;
- about 18,000 people are employed in the ICT sector in Moldova.
Even under the constraints caused by the global pandemic, the ICT sector continues to report a pressing need for qualified specialists. In Moldova, there are 12 universities and 7 colleges that train professionals in ICT, but the number of young people who choose IT studies is too small. Experts believe that they are not attracted to learn IT for various reasons including elderly teachers, diminished reputation of technical and vocational education, low quality of programs, but also the perception of the universities in general (young people do not associate them with an academic environment for professional training and research). Even so, every year about 15% of young people enrolled in these specialties drop out of school to go abroad to study or work. According to the data from the study, the increased dropout rate is due to misperceptions and institutions not meeting academic expectations. Currently, some gaps in the education system are partially covered by various educational initiatives carried out by training providers, companies in the sector, or community projects supported by international donors, such as Tekwill Academy, FabLab, Tekwill Ambassadors, and Tekwill in Every School. Demographic challenges and the rapid development of technologies highlight the need to reform the education system to train professionals with the necessary skills in the labor market.
Necessary measures needed to increase the quality of training of IT specialists
The authors of the study made a direct connection between quality education and well-trained specialists in the field. They recommended taking measures to reform the education system which will bring added value in the short and long term. These include:
- Adapting the curriculum to market requirements together with the private sector, following the model of international universities. Curricula would follow the latest trends at local and international levels.
- Recovering the image of an academic career and low salaries for teachers. One way could be to encourage young professionals to get involved in university teaching experiences. Their interest can be increased through research and development initiatives, training sessions, conferences to which special guests can be invited.
- Creating training centers within companies to reduce the skills gap of future specialists. Reducing the skills gap can be achieved by consolidating the resources that smaller companies can spend on training and development. According to the principle of co-financing, companies can be supported by the government or international donors to develop and create training centers and representative training programs.
- Increasing university funding and diversifying research grants. Currently, the Moldovan IT industry is at a turning point where it can accelerate rapidly. To reach the next level of development, it needs an increase in the quality of the workforce. In this context, significant investments are needed to improve the quality of IT education. Universities can be key partners for local companies. They can help businesses to become more innovative and productive by offering research on relevant topics as well as by training highly qualified professionals.
- Fundamental integration of research in the university system. Given that the Republic of Moldova aspires to the transition from “outsourcing” to the development of its own product model, it is necessary to fundamentally integrate research into the university system. This is due to innovations requiring world-class basic research, knowledge, and expertise, requiring more than an increased number of programmers with a basic level of competence. The development of innovations and research capabilities will inspire students to conduct basic research from their first years of study.
- Increasing the number of laboratories created in partnership with the private sector. The number of university laboratories, which are set up with the help of multinationals, should be increased. Their establishment will help expose students to global best practices and the latest technologies. They should be built in the university premises to create a technical environment and to give students the opportunity to develop products, along with incubation and acceleration programs.
- Creating alternative programs for training software programmers. The creation of an alternative program for the training of software programmers in less than three or four years will contribute to the increase of the medium-term labor supply. Given the rapid dynamics of the industry, four years of study to obtain a bachelor’s degree is often considered too long for software programmers. Until graduation, the professional knowledge acquired in the first years of studies is of little use. A solution that can be considered is the introduction of globally recognized or, where appropriate, associated certification programs. Such programs may be provided by the university in addition to standard study programs.
The TEKWILL Project – The revolution begins!
The TEKWILL project is implemented by the National Association of ICT Companies (ATIC), with the financial support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Sweden. “Tekwill” was created in 2017 as a Center of Excellence of the ICT sector in Moldova, with the main purpose of aligning the field with current market requirements. Aiming to contribute to increasing the competitiveness of the IT industry and other strategic sectors of the economy, the center expanded its fields of activity, becoming in 2019 a complex project at national level, with the slogan “The revolution begins!” The basic objective of the Tekwill Project, as a platform dedicated to the progress of the IT sector, is to ensure a major impact on the economic development of the country, by improving the entrepreneurial and educational capacities of society, but also by increasing the research and development potential of educational institutions, in line with the demand in the IT market.