With the school year underway, I’m reminded about the critical role that education and technology play in our future. Whatever your role—parent, teacher, student, mentor, employer, employee—technology literacy needs to be a priority.
For those involved with elementary school students, the best place to start is emphasizing education that promotes science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
+ Also on Network World: STEM majors dominate salary-based college ranking +
STEM programs offer an excellent opportunity to infuse technology into the learning process early on. Business and education experts agree that STEM education better prepares students and opens the door for greater career options. A STEM-based education is important because some element of science, technology, engineering and/or math is evident in most well-paying jobs. A recent article in Network World stated a majority of the highest-paying college majors are in engineering, led by petroleum engineers with a mid-career median salary of $172,000, according to Payscale.
Even for those without a college degree, the National Science Foundation reported technical STEM jobs often are among the best paying and most stable jobs—with incomes twice that of comparable workers in other fields. In addition, the unemployment rate for STEM workers was about half. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported STEM occupations are projected to increase 17 percent between 2008 and 2018, outpacing non-STEM jobs by 42 percent.
Technology companies must be involved
To ensure schools can support STEM curriculums, technology companies need to provide more than their fair share. If we want to improve the fundamental issues facing our country, we must devise new ways to increase involvement, such as partnering with educational institutions of all levels and sizes. As the father of young children, I’m always on the lookout for groups that could use our hardware, networking gear and connectivity services, as there is a long list of Curvature employees interested in giving back in some way.
We’re particularly proud of the work we’ve done for Girls Inc. of Santa Barbara, which is part of a national organization that helps more than 140,000 girls across the U.S. each year. We applaud the organization’s focus on fostering technology literacy and workforce readiness skills, and we continue to look for ways to help them empower girls through the use of technology.
In mentoring future technologists, entrepreneurs and business leaders, it’s crucial to stress the importance of mastering basic computer skills. Typically among the few qualifications for an entry-level administrative job—absolutely without a doubt, besides knowing how to type (on a traditional keyboard, not on a phone)—applicants must possess more than a basic familiarity with Microsoft Office products.
I have watched countless go-getters rise through the ranks in our company after coming in the door as an administrative assistant. While they didn’t all have college degrees, they could create and use a spreadsheet, do word processing and send emails. Mastery of basic computer skills will get you in the door, which as we know can be half the battle.
For students on a college path, schools must strive to provide more than just an environment for learning. The intention should be to serve as a Petri dish for next-gen entrepreneurs. For example, while any student who gets into Harvard will receive a great education, the university’s 5-year-old i-lab, which has been the genesis of more than 75 companies, is so much more potentially life altering than an Ivy League diploma.
There’s no denying the fact that our job market is becoming more technical every year. We have a responsibility to make the future brighter for students everywhere. To keep our workforce enthused, growing and innovative, it is up to business leaders—especially in the technology space—to reach out to government and educational institutions of all levels to assist in providing necessary skills and knowledge. Programs such as on-the-job training, summer positions, internships, “reskilling” or professional development offerings are a must to meet future workforce challenges.