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Attracting Young Students to IT Careers

happy boy working at computer smiling

Our summer camps have wound down.  We’re now in development mode for the 2008 season.  With thousands of kids attending our program each summer season, we now see our role in developing future IT talent to be all the more relevant.

Being a Silicon Valley-based company, there is not a day that goes by where we don’t hear grumblings from a big tech company.  “There isn’t enough talent to fill our job vacancies.”  Solution?  Look overseas and bring talent from abroad to fill the vacancies.  This is a partial solution.  But, a true solution lies in a diversified approach of increasing the talent pool by looking abroad, but also by fostering a new initiative for fostering the next generation of tech and science leaders here at home.

Phil Bond, president and CEO of the Information Technology Association of America recently wrote an article for the San Jose Mercury News where he quoted some interesting statistics:

  1. America will add more than 1 million IT jobs between 2004 and 2014, according to the Department of Labor.
  2. Undergraduate enrollment in Computer Sciences declined 59% over the period from 2001 to 2005.

So, what gives?  We hear about jobs being outsourced to India and China.  The fear is fueled, in part, by the illegal immigrant situation here in the States and our increasing paranoia and xenophobia, coupled with uncertainties about the employment situation here at home.

“We are losing.  We can’t compete.  Sound the alarms!”  The fact of the matter is, we live in a global economy.  Students who embrace technology and science (and while I mention it, learning a foreign language wouldn’t hurt either) at an early stage will have a better chance at competing in and redefining what “the global economy” means in the years to come.

Mr. Bond argued that one of the problems in attracting young students to the IT field is that the older generation doesn’t know how to hook the younger generations.  He nailed it!  Students often perceive IT fields to be dry.  But, these viewpoints can be easily changed if we get hip.  How?  I have talked previously about how school curriculum needs to change to incorporate what kids are into (video games, the internet, social networking sites) and using these interests as a launching point.

But most schools can’t keep up and that is where iD Tech Camps comes in.  iD Tech is one of many private sector companies that is bridging the gap and teaching young students where an interest in video gaming, social networking, web design, programming…can ultimately lead.  We teach our courses in small clusters of 6 students in a summer camp setting.  We often hear that we teach more in a week than a student learned in an entire semester at school.  But this is because we create a fun environment where students WANT TO LEARN.  By attracting and engaging young students in an open, collaborative environment, the next IT leaders are coming up through the ranks.  But, we have to do more.