and the Congressional Caucus on Small Business IT held a briefing on the issue of lagging interest in IT-related careers by our nation’s youth. A group of concerned representatives from CompTIA, Congress and a panel of IT, education and small business experts set out to frame the issue and offer possible solutions.
Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), the co- chair of the Congressional Caucus on Small Business IT, gave opening remarks, discussing the IT industry’s challenge to engage a young generation that – while tech-savvy – shows little interest in IT careers. She noted the prevalence of this issue in her native California – a state that is home to Silcon Valley and the birth of the tech boom of the late 1990s.
Rep. Sanchez said innovative businesses, some within her district of Orange County, have had difficulty finding individuals to fill their positions while – at the same time – high unemployment rates among young people looms. These two quandaries together beg the question, she said, why aren’t young people going into the IT sector?
CompTIA’s Tim Herbert, vice president of research, reported on the findings of a recent CompTIA study to provide some possible answers to this question. The study
– formulated with the responses of one thousand 13 to 24 year olds – revealed that many of these kids embrace technology and are facilitators, but often rule out an IT as result of a bad perception of the field and a lack of education about what IT careers are available. As Herbert explained, the category of “IT” is expansive and ill-defined, but research has shown that when teenager and adults are educated about the various career paths, there has been significantly higher interest.
Members of the panel, moderated by Liz Hyman, vice president of public advocacy for CompTIA, shared their experiences and opinions on the issue before taking questions – including Della Cronin of Computing in the Core
, Nancy Connelly, public policy manager of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium
, and Angel Piniero, senior vice president of services in ASI System Integration
Piniero – representing small business – stated that it was difficult to find individuals who have the skills needed for the job and highlighted the importance of educating young people about IT careers to make them more aware of the opportunities in IT while in college. ASI, he said, offers internships to allow young people to learn more about IT positions.
Cronin noted that by the 2020, there will be roughly 9 million jobs in the tech world – more than half of those in the IT field. It’s incredibly important, she said, to not only reach out to college students, but reach out to the K-12 level so they have a better idea of a potential career path before leaving high school. To that end, she emphasized that the availability and prevalence of computer sciences in our educational system as a prerequisite to advancing in an IT career.
Connelly agreed that education was important and noted that clear standards and definitions of career paths are needed. She then shared the recent unveiling of the Common Career Technical Core, a state-led initiative to establish a set of rigorous, high-quality standards for Career Technical Education (CTE) that states can adopt voluntarily. The CCTC includes a set of standards for 16 Career Clusters™ and their corresponding Career Pathways that define what students should know and be able to do after completing instruction in a program of study.
For more information on what CompTIA is doing to close this gap, visit media reports on State of the IT Skills Gap
or Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology
. CompTIA members can access the full studies at http://www.comptia.org/members/research/topicsbyyear/TopicsByYear2012.aspx