A Future that Requires 21st Century Skills
Written by Tim Westergard
Transitions from a 4 year high school to a college are a rite of passage for most of us. We eagerly anticipate the day when we can pick up a book, turn on the computer, and begin studying. We think about our new career, and the people we hope to become. These transitions include individuals new to the country, families moving to a new area, the birth of a child, changes in employment, and often times, including age transition. While these changes are important to an individual and a society, it is not always clear that the proper way to guide learners through the complexities of learning and life.
Information technology is one of the hot fields in the country. Within that sector, nearly 15% of jobs require an extra degree. That translates to 10.7 million additional graduates needed over the next decade. “Taking a leap of faith to go into IT can be an exciting and challenging career,” says Tom Gannon, who co-chaired the Information Technology Education Commission. In honor of this important workforce demand, America’s future leaders will be our future leaders, and IT will always be one of the jobs of choice. For many young people and graduates, this presents an opportunity to experience a wide range of opportunities. However, transitioning from high school to college isn’t necessarily a seamless process. Additionally, IT professionals are often not able to train their predecessors. There is always the risk that these people find it difficult to keep up with the changes required to better integrate the various technologies available.
Today, it’s becoming even more important to support these transition periods in our young people. The driver for this change is that 21st century learners will be not just computers, but people who see an image as an experience.
“How can we better work with our younger students who are entering the high school and college ranks to work on a path towards an IT degree?” asks Tim Westergard, principal executive officer at MindShift, “This is a critical step in preparing them for the career of their choice.”
Westergard sees the global opportunity in education. Many of our best job prospects will not be right next door, or even on the border with a country we may not be familiar with. Today, the United States competes globally for IT talent, and needs to do better when it comes to providing this type of instruction. We’re just not putting enough resources into IT education, which in turn, is leaving an even larger hole in the workforce for companies.
It’s time to change. While students are often excited about the change in age, expectations for them change with it. Many programs are changing how they teach students, and that’s where the future lies. “This is a critical time for young people to learn about IT,” says Westergard, “This is a chance to match up young people with exciting and challenging IT jobs.”
Employers, too, need to realize that our current system is not producing enough quality candidates to meet their needs. As the United States competes for talent on a global scale, we have become a nation of thinkers, makers, developers, managers, and problem solvers, as opposed to functional and technical. Millennials are the best prepared generation for both generation Z and the current generation. What companies need to do is understand that this is their chance to work with someone who thinks outside the box. We need to create an educational and culture shift that offers 21st century talent the best support.
“The world is changing as fast as the education system,” says Westergard, “Because of this, it’s time to re-examine what we expect from education. As older educators and IT professionals, we are well positioned to assess this, and understand how to position the workforce for tomorrow.”