by Gary Beach

Change IT’s Image

Oct 22, 20082 mins

Great teachers will inspire kids to pick tech careers

I have a homework assignment for members of the CIO community with children in elementary school.

This evening, ask your child to draw a picture of a scientist, an engineer or a technology worker other than you. Make a digital image of it, send it to me, and with your permission I’ll post them on our website.

I can tell you right now that the pictures will depict geeky-looking guys with horn-rimmed glasses. Few kids will draw women. It will be easy to see the challenge facing IT’s public image.

Because of this image, fewer young Americans today opt for IT careers. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers—possibly including yourself—are preparing to leave the workforce. Yet many enterprises today rely on staff with skills in both legacy systems and new Web 2.0 technology.

With the current economic crisis, older workers may stay on the job longer. But how are we to interest young Americans in IT careers? Based on my 14 years of experience as founder of Tech Corps (a non-profit that organizes technology volunteers to help in schools), the sweet spot for getting children interested in tech careers is between the fourth and seventh grades, particularly for girls.

We reach these kids by ratcheting up national efforts to find the best elementary school science and math teachers who can have a profound impact on the future career aspirations of our children. That’s how we’ll change the image that they have of us.