The growing use of technology across job functions is designed to streamline processes, boost productivity, improve customer service and reduce costs. Unfortunately, it can also discourage job seekers from applying for positions because of concerns that they lack the right tech skills.
And its not just in tech-specific roles. Today, marketers are expected to have experience in coding, data analytics and UX design; financial services roles increasingly require experience with programming languages such as Python and MATLAB; and even health care professionals benefit when they have a better understanding of Epic, the leading electronic health record system in the U.S.
To prepare the workforce for the jobs of the future and reduce the tech skills confidence gap, companies must play a greater role helping educate emerging talent in schools. This will provide more people with opportunities to build their tech competency, giving them the confidence to pursue careers they might otherwise find out of reach. Even more importantly, it will help build the tech-ready workforce the country desperately needs.
Public-private partnerships can build a strong tech foundation
While many think younger Americans are digital natives with tech skills that go far beyond social media, research shows this often isnt the case.
A Dell study found over a third of Gen Z felt that their school education did not prepare them with the technology skills needed for their planned career and 56 percent received either very basic or no digital skills training. When it comes to the tech workforce specifically, a CompTIA study of 18-34 year-olds revealed a confidence gap that is discouraging them from pursuing tech careers.
In the U.S, K-12 public schools often have limited resources and time to go beyond the basic curriculum of English Language Arts and math, especially in the elementary grades. This is where leading businesses can help fill the tech skills gap.
While companies may not be able to directly influence whats taught in the classroom, there are opportunities to work with school districts to offer access to tech experts, lessons, materials and other resources such as financial assistance.
The following ideas are thought starters to help companies develop programs that work best for their business and community.
Elementary School (Grades K-6)
In the elementary grades, educators often focus on teaching technology basics such as search techniques, password management and digital citizenship. These are all important skills, but theres an opportunity to go further as emerging tech becomes more user-friendly and accessible to everyone.
Coding, artificial intelligence and augmented reality have become more mainstream, making it easier for educators to not only incorporate these disciplines into lesson plans, but teach them to their students.
Corporate learning and development can play a pivotal role by partnering with school districts to provide professional development to teachers so they can work with students each day, offering to run after-school coding classes to reinforce students learning and planning fun tech competitions to give students an opportunity to exhibit what skills they learned.
Because even the youngest students ask why they need to know certain skills, business and learning leaders can also help teachers make the connection between the tech being used in the classroom and whats happening in the real world using their companies as examples.
Finally, theres an opportunity to provide administrators and teachers with informational sessions on everything from how to stay safe from cyber security threats to responsible use of AI chatbots like ChatGPT. As technology rapidly advances, these early introductions in students education can give them a significant head start toward rewarding careers.
Secondary School (Grades 7-12)
Across the U.S., 53 percent of public high schools offer foundational computer science classes, but participation can be unequal, especially among underrepresented groups such as girls and economically disadvantaged students.
One issue is that even young people dont understand that coding programs have become more accessible and intuitive, and that coding skills can be put to many uses from building websites and apps to creating digital art. Another issue is that districts may not advocate coding programs because they dont have enough funds and staff, or administrators dont see the value.
Theres an opportunity for companies to step in to help educate students, parents, teachers and administrators about the computer science field to help overcome these obstacles. They can also connect students with computer science professionals through mentor programs, tech fairs, school assembly presentations and on-site company visits.
In fact, a Gallup report found that students with computer science role models are over 10x more likely to say they will pursue a computer science career than students without.
The journey needs to continue in higher ed
Its not just young job seekers who have a lack of confidence when it comes to workforce preparation. Employers also feel the next generation isnt ready.
While most organizations value a college degree, they also express that higher education institutions need to make more progress in getting students ready for the corporate world, including developing better tech and soft skills.
Students are eager and see the value as well. According to a Cengage study, 66 percent of college graduates want more real world work experiences and believe colleges should prioritize school-sponsored co-ops and internships as well as mentorships and introductions to local businesses.
But the onus shouldnt fall solely on colleges and universities to provide these opportunities. Instead, business and learning leaders can take a few steps to help build better partnerships in higher education by:
Theres a long way to go before the tech skills confidence gap is a thing of the past, and the route to get there can seem overwhelming. But inaction will only allow the problem to grow as tech increasingly becomes more advanced and pervasive in our workplaces.
If corporations want to have a tech-savvy future workforce, theyll need to fully collaborate with educators now to build a solid tech background that starts early in a childs life and continues throughout their educational journey and beyond.
See the rest here:
Overcoming the tech skills confidence gap - Chief Learning OfficerRead More..