How to Foster an IT Youth Movement

These CIOs are engaging the next generation of IT workers with programs that energize, inspire and educate young students about the real world of IT.

Thu, July 25, 2013

CIO — How do you engage the next generation of technology professionals? Three CIOs discuss how they inspire and educate young students about the real world of IT.

Raising Tech Goddesses

Cora Carmody, SVP of IT, Jacobs Engineering: Working with youth enables you to show the passion you feel for your career, positively affect people's futures and give your company a competitive edge through greater employee fulfillment. In the long term, it can also improve the depth and diversity of the IT candidate pool. We've developed locally administered, interactive approaches to interest young people in technology, including K-12 initiatives, internships, and new graduate hiring and development.

I founded a nonprofit group called Technology Goddesses in 2002, providing role models and educating Girl Scouts about technology, including exposure to the vast range, variety and economic attractiveness of technology careers. Two recent Jacobs hires were originally seventh-grade Technology Goddesses.

We have aggressive programs to employ students and new graduates--we hired 487 grads and offered 406 internships or co-ops in fiscal 2012. And we don't stop at hiring; we groom them as future leaders at the local level. The Jacobs Future Network development program has 1,700 participants in 22 chapters around the world.

We use mentoring, rotational assignments and other techniques to develop locally prioritized skills, as well as business acumen, customer focus, planning and presentation skills. There is no substitute for engaged people making a difference in their own communities.

Letting Them Play

Jim Rinaldi, CIO, Jet Propulsion Laboratory: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) IT Outreach Program aims to entice students of all ages and backgrounds to consider careers in IT. We showcase real uses of IT in a fun and energetic way. The JPL IT Petting Zoo began as a cost-effective way to evaluate emerging technologies and their viability for JPL.

It took an interesting turn in 2010 when the Petting Zoo was featured at a Girl Scouts science festival. Over 1,500 Girl Scouts and their families participated in hands-on exploration of the technology "pets," while "zookeepers" chatted with them about technology and possible IT careers. Since then, the Petting Zoo has visited schools from primary to college.

Another component of the program infuses technology into schools--last year, one JPL IT partner donated more than 5,000 pieces of computer equipment. We complement these early-age programs with our Early Career Hire Program, which gives JPL departments incentives to hire recent graduates and students.

We ensure they are able to work on meaningful IT projects, which they can showcase on YouTube once they return to school. This encourages them and fellow students to work in IT at JPL and become the new generation of explorers.

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