Ideas for Attracting Young People to IT Careers

Five experts in IT education and training suggest ways to get more students into computer science and IT careers.

By Margaret Locher
Mon, May 07, 2007

CIO — Low enrollments in computer science and engineering programs mean few students are choosing technology careers. Five experts in IT education and training suggest ways to reverse the trend.

Kate Kaiser
Associate Professor of Management, Marquette University College of Business Administration

When job openings were few between 2001 and 2004, students and their parents dismissed IT as a viable career. This low followed an inflated high when IT was tackling Y2K compliance, Web development and ERP projects. Both the high and low times were aberrations and unfortunately were back-to-back, exaggerating the misperceptions about IT careers.

Meanwhile, the media magnified the impact of offshore outsourcing, contributing to fears that the difficult IT employment situation would continue. There is growth for IT careers domestically and globally with end user companies and IT vendors. Research that I conducted with a team sponsored by the Society for Information Management (SIM) shows that nontechnology companies plan to increase their internal IT staff and supplement that staff with vendors. Companies using offshore sourcing are more likely do so by engaging a domestic sourcer with an offshore staff. And two new sources of jobs have emerged: Some global IT providers like Infosys Technologies and the Tata Group are hiring U.S. citizens. Meanwhile, there are new jobs within IT organizations due to the need to manage global teams—positions such as relationship managers.

Although the number of graduates in IT-related majors is increasing, the enrollment trend is not reversing quickly enough to meet the demand. We need to get the message to middle and high school students, parents and guidance counselors—in addition to college freshmen and sophomores—that if they want to enter these fields, they need basic analytical skills and an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. By middle school, students are often turned off from technical subjects and don’t have the basic skills they need to enter these fields.

CIOs can get involved with their school districts and spread the word that the market is excellent for technology graduates. Ask your staff to volunteer for career days at area schools, have them bring students in to shadow them or mirror the Future Potential in IT program (a program sponsored by SIM and Microsoft through which college freshman and sophomores learn from practitioners about real IT jobs) on a smaller scale.

Geoff Smith
President, LP Enterprises, and former Deputy CIO, Procter & Gamble

The first step to solving this problem is to acknowledge that it exists. Over the past few years, I have been asked to speak to hundreds of CIOs on developing the pipeline of future IT talent. I have been shocked and disappointed by the level of complacency of many of the very people who will bear the full brunt of this issue in the coming years.

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