Throughout my career, I have helped companies in many industries work through all sorts of challenges: packaged implementations, transformation initiatives, supply chain initiatives, workforce strategy, etc. Mostly we are able to solve for the problem. Yet one challenge persists—a challenge that’s pervasive and impacts the U.S. economy.
The challenge I refer to is the shortage of skilled technical labor, which, in my opinion, has worsened over the past 10 years in large part because of a disconnect between the industry and the education system. In other words, our schools may not be adequately preparing our students for careers of the future. How do schools maintain a pulse on Corporate America’s needs to guide the young? How are guidance counselors, educators and parents staying informed?
Will Our Students Develop Skills that Endure?
As a parent, it is my responsibility to guide my daughters as they grow and mature to make smart decisions about their schooling and choice of extracurricular activities that will help them become good people and prepare them for intellectually stimulating and successful careers—careers with skills they can develop and will exist 10 or 15 years from now.
Much has been written about the oft-cited statistic—65% of elementary school children will work in careers that don’t exist today. Many of us are in jobs we could not have imagined when we were in grade school, high school or even college. Most require technical skills. Recognizing that my oldest daughter has an aptitude in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields, I coach her, and recently I encouraged her—perhaps that’s not the right word, okay, I bribed her, she’s a teenager—to take a coding class. I wanted to expose her to coding to see if she liked it versus her quick reaction to the topic, “No.”
As Nitasha Tiku writes in her New York Times article, How to Get Girls into Coding, I see the need today and going forward for more women in technology, and for more developers. I also explain to my daughter business concepts when we go shopping. The more she understands how business works, if she decides to pursue a career in technology, the more effective she will be. The ability to marry business and technical acumen is also on the rise. So the bribery continues. She did well in, and most important enjoyed, the class so much that she is applying for another this summer. I will continue to “guide” her along this path.
Mom Plays Key Role
Research supports the idea that mom and dad are strong factors in student success in math and science as detailed in the article, How Parents Made the Difference in this Long-Term STEM Study. The study’s key points show that success stems from parental involvement that nurtures their child’s interest and conveys the importance of understanding STEM subjects. Do teenagers understand how technology touches every industry and how it is changing traditional professions? Look at self-driving cars, for example. They may eliminate the need for taxi and truck drivers. Or robots that may replace our local barista.
We also have to encourage our young people to develop the soft skills that increasingly are becoming as important to companies and future success—that is, the ability to communicate, solve problems and serve on or lead a team, as described in LinkedIn’s 2017 U.S. Emerging Jobs Report. I know it is hard for teenagers to believe, but it is not all about texting, Snapchat and Instagram. They must learn to effectively communicate to be successful in the workforce.
I have been privileged with a good education and career opportunities and to be able to witness the issues corporations are struggling with and how they resolve them. I can be proactive with my daughters and work within the system to see that they have the classes and instructors they need to be successful and that they are exposed to topics that are relevant in business. I can continue to “encourage, guide and, well, bribe” them to be receptive to try something that perhaps their friends will not because I see what is happening.
Who Will Coach our Kids?
Parents are busy. Children need continued encouragement. They need an advocate or coach. But if one isn’t willing or able, who will keep an eye on their future, create exposure and present opportunities to guide them on a path where the skills they develop are needed? At minimum, who will create awareness so they make informed decisions about the classes they take and degrees they pursue?
Here is why I am concerned for my daughters: Millennials make up a large portion of the population yet this generation is experiencing low labor force participation growth and the highest unemployment of all age groups. In my current role, I see first-hand the tech talent and skills gap companies are experiencing, yet college graduates struggle to find good-paying jobs in fields related to their degrees.
What can we do about it?
At Genesis10, I often write about the talent gap in my blog. A recent post, CIOs Take Stock of Tech Talent—and Innovative Approaches to Shortage, reports that by 2020 there will be about 1 million more computing jobs than applicants qualified to fill them, with demand particularly strong for Information Security Analysts.
Technology Companies Doing their Part
At the corporate level, some companies work directly with schools to ensure they offer training to meet current and future workforce needs. There are some great examples of businesses partnering with community colleges or vocational schools. Working with the Trump administration, some technology companies recently pledged $300 million for computer science education to help prepare students for tech careers. Is it enough?
The tech talent gap prevails. As companies become more digital, and the pace of change accelerates, companies will continue to create jobs that demand skilled tech workers, as reported by the World Economic Forum. How do we ensure the supply of tech talent will sufficiently meet demand in five, seven, or 10 years? Will the nation’s education system get in sync to effectively prepare our children for these roles? More important, will our children be fascinated and inspired by technology to tinker and pursue a career in technology?
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