This post is to clearly discuss an opinion I have on where I think we’re failing our current and next generation on technical education. So I’ll start out with a disclaimer.
1. It’s my opinion and no one else’s. Not my employer, not my genders and not anyone but mine.
2. Its a whole lot easier to write here in a blog post than in a twitter conversation, no matter how much I enjoy chatting with everyone, including Jeff Smith and Bradd Piontek…
The basis for the discussion was an article that can be found here. Although the article was called, “The Real Reasons There Aren’t More Women in Tech”, the Problem #1 really is something I believe hits America hardest and this is not just impacting women in tech. Women are just more impacted because girls require the opportunities to be offered to them earlier on than boys for those opportunities to be successful.
When I was in high school, I took an elective programming class. My children are barely offered any computer classes unless they offer to attend the alternative school in the area that is recognized for the attendance by teens with behavioral issues. This seems very odd for anyone who is thinking, “What does this mean for the future of technology employees?” There are varied responses on what level of technology is offered by state for technical education in the US, but it’s still quite difficult to understand when you look at these statistics.
- 41 states schools do not require any computer classes for graduation.
- 90% of schools do not offer computer classes
For my state’s school system, mandatory computer class entails a middle school requirement that can override the high school class, which involves teaching Microsoft Office and how to format a USB drive. Sorry, that’s Office Technology, it’s not Information Technology. They are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. Once kids reach high school, for computer programming to be a passion for many, is too late to be considered an opportunity for a career!
Now back to my generation- many of us were offered a programming class. IT was the future. Around this time, 1982, (yes, I’m aging myself!) there were just over 600,000 home computers. Information Technology positions were still only a small percentage of the American workforce and workstations were often unheard of in offices, which mostly preferred typewriters or dedicated word processors.
Now back to modern times. You would be hard-pressed to find a home without at least one pc and almost everyone has a tablet and children are walking around with smartphones. STEM careers are projected to increase by 1.4 million jobs by 2020. There are consistent concerns by the US Dept. of Labor that we aren’t prepared to meet these demands with the American Labor force and many are complaining that jobs are being filled by skilled employees overseas.
All this and yet the solution I feel sits right in front of us and we should have started addressing it quite some time ago. We have requirements for English Literature and History, (all very important…) but how many English Lit and History majors are out of work? Why is computer programming introduced so late into our children’s education, (if at all) and is still an elective?
I’m not the only one questioning our idea of what is a “core” education. We need to embrace the idea that our children should be introduced to programming in elementary and by the time they are out of high school, they should be able to fulfill the requirements for an entry level computing programming position in the workforce just as easily as they can fulfill other entry level jobs.
OK, off my soapbox…