Investing in the future. Why IT education cannot be put on hold

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«Quality IT education is the best investment in the future and the driving force for economic development.»

Education is not only about knowledge, skills, and values but also about building Ukraine’s intellectual elite, developing high-tech solutions and innovations. Today, the IT industry is one of the most dynamic in the market. So the ever-growing demand for IT services and products stimulates the emergence of innovations and new work tools. It, of course, requires constant high-quality training and development, and the market requires qualified employees.

Last week’s IT Ukraine Education Summit 2023 became a unique platform for interesting educational discussions, focusing on the state of IT education and defining an effective strategy for the preservation and professional development of human resources in Ukraine. Representatives of the state, businesses, educational institutions, and IT industry experts, including EPAM, shared their experiences, knowledge, and insights from 2022, as well as their forecasts and expectations for 2023, both offline and online.

Lviv Now talked to Denys Hryniov, Vice President for Education at IT Ukraine Association and Head of Curriculum at EPAM University, to find out what juniors need to know and what skills they should develop, what training programs EPAM University offers, and what the IT industry can expect in 2023.

Ukrainian IT industry was the least affected by the war among all industries. Does EPAM continue to invest in education, new specialists, and innovative projects?

The outbreak of a full-scale war has changed people’s perception of how work and education can continue during wartime. Even during the crisis and war, the company EPAM did not cease its operations. In order to save the country and prepare for its rapid recovery after the victory, EPAM continued to invest in education and programs for the training of young professionals. In addition to financial support, there are numerous programs in place to support the population and university students.

Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, we realized that the shelling of universities, where servers with all the data for education are located, would not cease. In order to ensure that students could continue their studies, it was necessary to preserve the servers and transfer them to a safer location. Thanks to the efforts of EPAM’s system engineers and our partners from Amazon Web Services, over 25 universities (mostly from the eastern, central, and southern parts of Ukraine) have already migrated their servers to cloud storage for remote learning, preserving critical elements of the infrastructure. Recently, it was calculated that these universities have nearly 180,000 students. Therefore, even if the buildings or server facilities of these institutions are affected by the conflict, students will be able to continue uninterrupted remote learning.

One program that was developed in 2021 is aimed at beginners – junior specialists. A few years ago, the demand for IT professionals was so high that the number of open positions for juniors exceeded the number of graduates from universities with IT specialties. That’s why we decided to focus on beginners because we realized that this is a new audience. We also prioritized career switchers – people who have experience and knowledge in one field but have decided to change their profession. In particular, EPAM started developing basic-level programs that did not require any tests.

How much interest is there in the IT industry among beginners now?

The war pushed many people to change their professions. Due to job loss or relocation, people prefer to acquire a stable international profession. Almost 18 thousand Ukrainians registered for our IT Fundamentals program for beginners in the first two weeks. We did not restrict their location, so even those who had moved abroad could join. Among all the participants, almost 12,000 were active students, and almost 2,000 of them completed the first stage and moved on to the second stage, specialization. They chose their specialty in IT, and we gave them access to education.

Today, the growth of the IT industry is not as big as last year, but it is still there. We are moving forward, and dozens of EPAM University graduates get positions in new projects every month. Yes, the business has changed, not only in Ukraine but also globally, being rather in a standby mode, so there are more candidates than job openings for junior-level positions in companies.

In addition, we are completing all of our previous training programs, and EPAM itself makes large contributions and investments to help the state.

The National Multi-Subject Test sessions are currently underway, indicating that the admissions campaign for universities will commence soon. What do you recommend choosing first – education/university or profession?

I recommend choosing based on your passion and calling. You can also explore your interests well before applying to universities, for example, by taking free tests or assessments. This way, it becomes easier to understand if it aligns with your path or not.

EPAM University has launched the Pre-Junior Programme for high school students (grades 9-11). Its main goal is to help teenagers to understand technology and try working in the IT field. We want school leavers to make an informed choice and not enter the field just because it’s trendy or because their parents advised them to.

We allow high school students to get closer to IT programs and training a little earlier so that they understand how much they will need it in the future.

What advice do you have for those who see themselves in the IT field in the future but don’t know where to start?

Read and try. The hardest part is always at the beginning of your career. But I advise you not only to master the theory but also to implement small projects. If it inspires you and you succeed, move forward in the same direction, but if it doesn’t, I advise you to try another IT specialty.

Is it possible to start getting acquainted with IT at any age?

Yes, you can start getting acquainted with IT or change your profession at any age, regardless of your field of study or experience. The main thing is to have a desire and make an effort to study and to know English because it is essential.

What skills will students need if they plan to study and work in the IT field?

For all specialties, lifelong learning is important and necessary. Information Technologies is one of the industries where learning does not end today or tomorrow but is long-lasting.

Self-directed learning throughout life, especially in the early years, is crucial. It is also important to have the motivation to learn. When all these factors align – the desire, the ability, and the motivation – it becomes easier to pursue a career in IT.

What does the student of the future look like, and who will the IT industry need after the victory?

The student of the future is an engineer who knows how to solve problems. Nowadays, there are artificial intelligence tools that help generate a lot of content quickly. And juniors, both developers and testers, are the ones who generate content. Of course, they will have less time to generate it, but they will be able to use their knowledge more widely. It is the intersection of technologies, and we are now talking about full-stack engineers who know front-end, back-end, and cloud technologies.

Can artificial intelligence replace junior-level specialists, i.e., novice students, and what should they do in this case?

It is unlikely to replace anything in the coming years, even decades. Nevertheless, in the project, artificial intelligence will help replace less experienced people with those who know how to use the machine to generate and solve problems.

I believe there will be a growing need for engineers who are presented with not just tasks, but problems to solve. And they will be able to address these challenges not in isolation, but with the assistance of artificial intelligence. However, to achieve this, broad and diverse knowledge is necessary. It’s important for individuals to understand how to ask the right questions and effectively utilize the tools at their disposal.

How many training programs does EPAM University offer, and which ones?

More than 25 in total: java, front-end (javascript),.net, software testing, test automation, devops, python, mobile (android, ios), security testing, big data, business analysis, and others.

How can I join the EPAM team? What do I need to do?

First, you need to be willing to take free training on the training portal. Currently, there are a dozen programs in the IT Fundamentals Self-Paced Program format with automatic task checking, where detailed communication with a mentor is not required.

After passing the qualifying stages, you can receive an invitation to external lectures. Further, the programs include an interview for the final stage projects in the internal laboratory. After practicing your knowledge and skills on training projects, you can be interviewed for a project, receive an offer, and join the EPAM team.

Why is it so important to take care of education and invest in training, even in times of war?

You can be both pessimistic and optimistic. I am a realist with optimistic views. We cannot put education on hold because even in times of war, it is the best investment in the future, the driving force behind economic development.

As soon as Ukraine prevails, investments will start coming to us. We all have to be ready for that. For example, to train specialists who can work efficiently and perform tasks. So, we have no right to stop – we must continue our education.

Translated by Yulian Lahun

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram. Lviv Now is an English-language website for Lviv, Ukraine’s «tech-friendly cultural hub.» It is produced by Tvoe Misto («Your City») media hub, which hosts regular problem-solving public forums to benefit the city and its people.

 

TAGS: IT, Ukraine, education

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