Did You Know: The Jobs:Skills Mismatch, Apprenticeships, Tech Women Thriving

Does the Skills Gap = an Education Gap?

Did you know that “today’s skilled factory worker is really a hybrid of an old-school machinist and a computer programmer”? So explains an engineering technology instructor at Queensborough Community College. The New York Times looked at the skills gap affecting rebounding manufacturing jobs in the U.S., and found that the skills gap might really be an education gap. 

By some estimates nearly 80% of manufacturers have jobs they can’t fill, and the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that there are roughly 600,000 jobs just waiting to be filled. Yet many of these jobs require a background in both scientific principles like metallurgy and mathematical principles like programming. Employers complain that there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill these high-tech positions, since even high school graduates they would willingly train lack sufficient knowledge of math and science.

There are many paths to a technology career, but even those jobs traditionally considered low-wage are now increasingly high-tech … and high-skilled. What’s the role of education, vs. the role of employers, in preparing students for these jobs?

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University-level Support for Improved CS Education

Did you know about the National Science Foundation’s recent support for university initiatives to improve and broaden computer science education? The University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Commonwealth Alliance for Information Technology Education (CAITE) and Georgia Tech have received a $6.24 million grant to pilot an Expanding Computing Education Pathways (ECEP) alliance that can serve as a resource for states to make systemic changes that increase the number and diversity of computing grads. Meanwhile, the University of Alabama has received a $1 million grant to support CS Principles, which brings AP computer science to more high school students by providing professional development and training for educators and appealing curriculum for students. We congratulate the grant recipients and are thrilled to see universities working to improve computing education on such a broad level!

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How to Thrive As a Woman in Tech

Do you know whether your company talks about the women-in-tech issue? This week a blog on Cisco’s website looked at the landscape for women in technology fields, noting improvements as well as challenges. Although it didn’t interview women at Cisco, it did interview women founders of social media startups and found them optimistic about their prospects. 

Part of succeeding in your job is feeling that your success is supported by your employer, but part of it is making sure you’re doing all you can to support your own success, too. Check out NCWIT’s new resource for technical women, Top 10 Ways to Thrive in Your Technical Career.

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Do You Do Apprenticeships?

You’ve likely heard about the jobs:skills mismatch -- too many tech jobs, not enough tech talent -- and though endemic across the U.S., this mismatch tends to be particularly bad in growing tech hub cities like Chicago. One if the problems with the mismatch is that it often boils down to a blame game. 

“Unfortunately, colleges are not teaching real world skills,” says one side. “Academia is always about five years behind the computer industry.”

“Companies are still being stubborn … they want someone who has already been employed,” says the other side. “When corporations are focused on the bottom line and want to see profit, they don’t look at the big picture. “

One solution for employers is to institute an apprenticeship program, which lets them hire affordable, entry-level talent; custom-train employees with the skills they value; and build a close-knit company culture along the way. Boulder EA company QuickLeft’s apprenticeship program provides apprentices with full-time training over six months, and it’s clear from their blogs on the subject that the apprentices aren’t the only ones who benefit from the program. Do you, would you, run an apprenticeship program to get the right talent?

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Measuring Improvements to K-12 STEM Education

Did you know that the National Research Council has published goals for U.S. STEM education? A report released last week, “Monitoring Progress Toward Successful K-12 STEM Education,” suggests 14 key indicators for measuring improvements to STEM education and suggests that tracking these indicators will require asking federal and state collection agencies to focus not just on schools (personnel, enrollment) but on schooling (pedagogy, knowledge acquisition). The report’s authors build on an earlier report, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education,” and point out that with increased focus on U.S. competitiveness and revisions to the Common Core State Standards, the time is right to redouble our attention.

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The Talent Shortage: Whose Fault Is It Anyway?

You’ve likely heard about the jobs-to-skills mismatch -- too many tech jobs, not enough tech talent -- and though endemic across the U.S., this mismatch tends to be particularly bad in growing tech hub cities like Chicago. One if the problems with the mismatch is that it often boils down to a blame game.

“Unfortunately, colleges are not teaching real world skills,” says one side. “Academia is always about five years behind the computer industry.”

“Companies are still being stubborn … they want someone who has already been employed,” says the other side. “When corporations are focused on the bottom line and want to see profit, they don’t look at the big picture. “

So who’s to blame for the mismatch? Perhaps the better question to ask is what you’re going to do about it. Some companies partner directly with colleges to custom-prepare the candidates they need, others build in-house training programs, and still others offer sky-high salaries to entice the rare, perfect candidate. What’s right for you?