EVERY COMPANY requires information technology (IT). From business communications, marketing, sales and operations to planning - the entire business of today is run on IT fuel. Today's IT professionals must keep pace with the relentless onslaught of new information: technological advancements, business knowledge and evolving corporate processes. Oracle, a leading global supplier of software for information management, recognised an opportunity to commercialise technology, changing the face of business computing forever. Today Oracle is still at the cutting edge. It is one of the first companies to make its business applications available through the internet. Businesses of today no longer rely on a trail of paper to carry out their everyday transactions. Information is available instantly and in an incredible volume across the globe. It is vital for companies to be able to handle the information and use it to increase productivity and efficiency. There is often a disconnection between the technical side and the business side of a corporation, which can adversely affect the way it functions. 'In Hong Kong there is a gap in IT education. Nowadays, employers are not looking for pure computing skills; they want to hire people who can incorporate their IT skills in the business processes. They are looking for people with technical skills combined with business and communication skills,' said Roger Li, regional managing director, Oracle Greater China. 'Students with a background in IT are mentally prepared to understand and absorb the skills necessary in the work environment.' With the collaboration of the Education and Manpower Bureau, Oracle Systems Hong Kong has pioneered the way forward by contributing to the development of a mainstream computer curriculum. A tailor-made programme has been offered to support the two curricula for Form Six in the Hong Kong secondary education system - AS-level computer applications and A-level computer studies - since September 2005. The bureau's blueprint of a new academic structure for senior secondary and higher education to transform the younger generation into IT savvy individuals has been incorporated in the Oracle Academy Program. 'Oracle's database and applications are well-accepted technologies to better prepare students for career and academic advancement in Hong Kong's highly competitive job market. We provide an early understanding about database management, but it is not specific to our products,' Mr Li said. Under the Oracle Academy Program, Oracle provides a software and learning platform for the secondary school curriculum. Four semesters of classes in database fundamentals, SQL, and Java technology is offered to students using a spectrum of teaching resources. They have access to Oracle iLearning, an online learning environment, and online access to a development environment for SQL programming via Oracle Database. Some 289 Hong Kong institutions run the Oracle Academy Program in collaboration with the bureau. 'We are very particular about quality and we have noticed that Oracle credentials give students an advantage in the workplace,' Mr Li said. The tremendous pace of change in the IT industry means application software must be continuously upgraded and employees trained in new skills. The traditional ways to train professionals are through the use of books, classroom studies or in workshops. Oracle's training methods, however, aim to be more efficient. 'Classroom training takes time, but online training methods are quicker and more efficient. We provide our customers with continuous access to upgrade and train themselves in using our software quickly.' Oracle University essentially teaches about Oracle products and is available worldwide. It is a business service run by the company with established training centres around the world offering certified courses for those already in the IT workforce. It is suited for those who want to enhance their abilities. The Certification Program at Oracle University is useful to IT professionals and managers seeking to ensure competency in the workforce. Specific training is provided to suit the customer's needs. In-class, on-site and on-demand web-based and CD-Rom courses are some of the methods of training used to help clients adopt new Oracle technology. 'We have over 88,000 Oracle certified professionals in the Asia-Pacific region, giving us a solid foundation for helping our customers and providing a good indication of the unique needs of the university and how to offer the relevant training skills in those specific areas,' Mr Li said. The Oracle certification recognises the individual as an expert with the ability to implement Oracle products and technologies. 'Many large companies encourage their employees to become Oracle-certified professionals. Many OCPs have upgraded their certification through the span of their careers, increasing their earning power and productivity. I'm not surprised to see that many IT professionals have become CEOs of their companies,' he said. Mr Li said senior executives of large corporations were more inclined to be IT-competent rather than just IT-literate. They were keeping abreast of the latest computer technology to further enhance their company's competitive advantage.