More technology education is needed to bolster the IT workforce

studentChief information officers across America are eager to find more talented individuals they can add to their staffs. By working hard to attract top talent and train employees to reach the heights of their potential, CIOs can make sure their information technology initiatives are well-staffed and ultimately successful.

There’s one problem, though. The number of IT jobs out there for the taking is rapidly growing, and the country is struggling to crank out enough qualified applicants to fill them. Something needs to happen – either the economy needs to change so that fewer IT professionals are needed, or the education system should improve so that more people are able to develop the tech skills that our changing world requires.

Let’s focus on that latter part. A major problem in IT today is that education isn’t geared directly enough toward helping Americans develop tech skills that will make them strong contributors to the modern economy. Even young people, who are generally seen as tech-savvy and eager to adopt new trends, are having trouble in this area. CNET reports that employment numbers reflect this problem clearly – the youth unemployment in America today hovers around 16 percent. Young people have a distinct advantage on the job market because they’re up on the latest technologies, yet they’re not developing the right skills to find gainful employment.

Are young people learning the basics of software development? Are they learning to manage tech infrastructures? Are they developing leadership skills that will help them oversee large IT staffs? These are the big questions that will dictate the future of the IT job market, and not enough people in the professional world or in education are asking them. Every kid learns how to download an app or send a text message, but not enough teachers are emphasizing the development of fundamental tech skills that will benefit young professionals.

Heidi Golledge, CEO of CyberCoders and CareerBliss, wrote for CNET that this needs to change. Today’s young people aren’t being pushed hard enough toward information technology, and a large-scale movement is the only strategy that can be effective in the long run.

“We need to convince the next generation of Americans to pursue degrees that fit the changing world economy,” Golledge wrote. “Our economy is rapidly outgrowing its workforce, and it is slowing our growth and increasing economic disparity. While increasing certain immigration visas may be key to short-term development, only a dramatic change to train and educate our children with the latest technology skills is going to give us the long-term growth we expect to see.”

The STEM of the problem
It’s not just colleges and universities that should change their ways. Educators can improve the IT outlook by emphasizing better education at the lower levels, too. What the country really needs is a grassroots movement to promote science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) with students of all ages.

Politico cautions that improving STEM is easier said than done. Eric Schwarz, co-founder and CEO of Citizen Schools, has long been emphasizing improvement in STEM, but he says it requires a complete cultural shift among teachers and their classes. Ideally, there would also be longer school days and more involvement between schools and the tech communities around them. It’s a lot to ask.

“At the end of the day, if we’re going to get where we want to go as a country … it is going to take many more successes for young people in elementary school, middle school and high school,” Schwarz said. “That can happen in our schools.”

Chief information officers are always on the lookout for talent, but sadly there’s not always enough of it out there. A greater emphasis on technology education may help mend this problem.

Marie Larsen
Marie is a writer for CIOs.com. She has an educational background in languages and literature. She covers IT trends and executive technology management topics for the company.