Graduates now need life experience as well: Oracle

According to Tim Ebbeck, Oracle Australia's managing director, a university degree is no longer enough to secure a technology-based job upon graduating from university.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

When it comes to hiring talent, Tim Ebbeck, managing director at Oracle Australia, wants to see young applicants showing up at his doorstep with life experience, not just a technology-related degree.

By someone with life experience, Ebbeck means a person that has set up a business or developed an app, but still comes to him fresh out of university.

"I think what has changed in society in the last 15 years is that kids today of 12 or 13 have got the apps," he said. "There's a very fundamental difference that has occurred in society ... where there are tools available for kids to actually do stuff before they've even gone to university."

Ebbeck said the concept of setting up a small business even when still at school is life experience.

"People that have done something in life adds more value," Ebbeck told ZDNet.

"If you're out there and making money or you're failing -- I call that life experience.

"There's a lot of young entrepreneurs out there today. How many apps have been developed by people that haven't even left school? How many people drop out of school to take on a different course in their life as a result of the availability of ubiquitous technology?"

When asked with what money kids were expected to get these school-time businesses up and running, Ebbeck replied with: "That's the whole point isn't it?"

Chris Holmes, managing director of Australian IT consultancy firm Single Cell, said that as a smaller provider, university education is also not a priority for him when it comes to employing talent.

"So when we go to hire, yes having a university degree helps us vet, or cull somewhat, but the first thing we usually ask is what have you built and can you show us," Holmes said.

"We don't really care if you've done a three-year bachelor in information systems or a five-year degree in computer science because if you don't really have that practical experience to back it up, your value there is questionable."

Holmes believes it is easy enough for an individual to teach themselves how to be a database administrator in six months by following tutorials on the internet, saying the skills gained would probably result in being recruited for work.

"I really don't know whether universities are appropriately positioned to provide those skills or resources because at the end of the day, a lot of the ones we're seeing, getting a degree is almost a formality to get hired."

Teaching science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in Australian schools has been talked about at length over the past 12 months.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has recently tendered for a AU$1 million STEM summer school program, published an official request to find an organisation to deploy its AU$6 million Early Learning STEM Australia pilot program, and announced an AU$8 million initiative that he hopes will give 350,000 preschool children "a head start" in their careers.

All of which falls under his AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, unveiled in December.

Bolstering skills in STEM will prepare the future workforce, Turnbull said.

As previously highlighted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, the world is facing a global skills shortage. Infosys also reported earlier this year that young Australians were ill-prepared for the digital economy that stands before them.

Ebbeck does not believe this is the case, however.

"I don't think there's a lack of skills here [in Australia] -- there's been a big drain of innovation out of this country, as some of our brightest and best have moved overseas," he said.

He does believe that the term STEM needs to also encompass arts and design.

"I actually think there needs to be short-term bridging strategies that we need to put around the country -- I talk about STEM because I think part of the competitive advantage we have in this country is actually design and design is a subset of arts," he said.

"I think we can do some really clever stuff down here in terms of design that I think will help bridge the gap to actually having people again who are more broadly trained in the more traditional STEM methodologies."

Ebbeck also said that there is a great deal of development happening in Australia.

"It's interesting if you look at the research that goes on in multinationals there are more patents produced pound for pound in Australia than any other part in the world with the pure research that gets done here," he said.

"We've got a serious competitive advantage; we've just got to take advantage of it."

Editorial standards