Encourage Youth to Pursue Tech Careers

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The following was published in the October 29 editions of Foster’s and Seacoast Sunday.

We have a serious shortfall in skilled IT workers in this country. Some estimates put the number of open IT jobs at 1 million and growing. You may see evidence of this in your own organizations, especially if you have had to hire contract workers from outside the country. With the uncertain immigration situation we are currently faced with, this problem only stands to get worse.

It’s important to understand that while this may seem like a problem that most of us cannot help with, that’s not the case. As I wrote about in my last column, October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. You can learn more about this annual program at www.staysafeonline.org/ncsam.

During the fourth week of this year’s campaign, the theme has been “The Internet Wants You: Consider a Career in Cybersecurity.” As part of this campaign, there are several resources available to inform and excite young people about IT careers, specifically in cybersecurity.

Major focuses are on parents and teachers, as well as companies involved in the technology field. For those of us that work in technology firms, we are encouraged to create internship programs and advertise them to local high schools and community colleges. For those of us that are technology professionals, we are encouraged to volunteer to teach kids about technology careers in our schools community organizations and boys and girls clubs, like scouting. A good resource is at https://staysafeonline.org/resources/?filter=.topic-stay-safeonline.resource-item.

If your company is able to host an open house, consider doing so and informing your area schools so they can encourage students to attend and learn more about technology careers. One of the reasons we have such a skills deficit is because our schools are not effectively exposing students to all of the career paths within technology. Most schools are only teaching coding, because there has been a historical misperception that this is where the career opportunities exist. What we are seeing now is the result of that singular focus, a lack of skilled labor in critical infrastructure technologies and cybersecurity.

If you are a parent, check out the National Cyber Security Alliance’s Parent Primer to Guiding Kids to Careers in Cybersecurity at https://staysafeonline.org/resource/ncsas-parent-primer-guiding-kids-careerscybersecurity. For both parents and teachers, learn about the educational opportunities for kids at www.gen-cyber.com. The website www.uscyberpatriot.org is designed to encourage students toward careers in cybersecurity and other STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. Resources like these are key to building back the skills we have lost and need in today’s technology based global economy.

In addition to what we can do locally, we also need to be active legislatively. The Computing Technology Industry Association has successfully lobbied the U.S. Congress and just this July, the CHANCE in Tech Act was introduced. According to CompTIA Executive Vice President for Public Advocacy, Elizabeth Hyman, “The CHANCE in Tech Act will address the growing IT talent challenge by encouraging public-private funding for apprenticeship programs in the technology sector and providing students with the necessary skills to compete in the 21st century workforce.”

I encourage you to contact your representative and express support for the CHANCE in Tech Act to encourage legislators to support this legislation. We need more initiatives like this to help us turn around the lack of skilled technology workers in this country. I hope you will consider this request and engage the various resources I have noted above. Together, we can turn this around and make a difference for our future.

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