The big question that I had to answer together with the other panelists was “What is required so that young people with economic limitations can follow a path from education to work in the digital sector? The question makes a lot of sense, because “learning to work in tech” can generate social mobility for millions of young people around the world.
In this blog I want to share the ideas that we discussed in the panel and in discussion groups after the panel. What I am writing can serve as a starting point to create this “path from education to work in the digital sector”, with actions that we can start implementing tomorrow.
My proposal is going to sound simplistic. I know we are facing complex problems, but I like the idea of starting with simple solutions. We have to start with something.
Let’s start with the problem:
In fact there are 2 problems that are global. (I know there are more than two, but I told them I was going to simplify).
On the one hand, there is an immense source of talent that is not being well harnessed. The vast majority of our children and youth do not have access to technology and education in computer science.
Many may have a facebook account or a smartphone, but they are not learning well how to use a computer, how to program a computer and how to leverage technology to access better jobs in the future.
This is leaving them out of the growing digital economy, trapped in traditional low-paying jobs, if they ever get a job.
On the other hand, the world lacks people trained to take jobs in technology. According to the White House, today there are more than 500,000 technology jobs in the U.S. that are being left empty due to a lack of qualified talent to take them.
This is bringing losses for companies and slowing innovation. Information Technology is the occupational category with the most open jobs in the U.S. and two-thirds of those jobs are not in the tech sector.
They are in sectors as diverse as agriculture, manufacturing and medicine, where processes are being automated and technologies are being used to improve services (See this video for more examples).
Technological innovations in different sectors are emerging in the U.S. and all over the world, and with it, the world needs fewer people doing routine jobs and more people telling computers and robots what to do.
In particular, more women are needed working in technology, as they are a minority, despite having the same capacity as men to do tech jobs. Women tend to move away from lucrative careers in technology because of lack of interest or trust, and that’s something we have to change.
To solve these problems we need to make massive access to education and work in technology, for young women and men alike. It is something that suits every individual, every country and the world in general.
The ideal solution to these problems involves important actions, such as getting the government to establish computer science as a core subject in all schools, with a year-to-year academic program like math has today.
It also requires improving the infrastructure of schools and training teachers to teach computer science. In addition, there is a need for more accessible and efficient models of higher education that prepare young people to work in technology in a short time and at low cost.
A 5-year degree at a university may not be the best solution to respond to the high and changing demand of the technology market.
It is going to take a very long time for this to happen on a large scale. However, you have to start somewhere. A good starting point is to leverage better on the thousands of efforts happening around the world to include more young people and more women in the digital sector.
They come from social entrepreneurs, NGOs, corporate foundations and sometimes governments themselves. There are many efforts, but they are scattered, and they need to be better integrated.
To be more specific, I think that all of us who want to include more young people in technology should do 3 things:
Define our role in the path from education to technology work.
The path from education to work in the digital sector involves many things and one organization cannot cover them all. I think there are 4 stages to cover and each organization must know them and define which one (or which ones) it wants to focus on:
- Awaken curiosity and confidence to learn computer science in children and young people.
- Educate children and young people, building in them logical and computational thinking that serves as a basis for learning more things in the future.
- Prepare young people for a specific job in technology, which serves as a gateway to the digital market.
- To open career lines so that young people who enter the digital market can grow, acquiring more skills and going up to better paid jobs.
Goals vary from one stage to another and the competencies needed as well, so each organization must decide where to focus. For example, if your mission is to arouse curiosity and confidence, your goal should be to reach as many children as possible.
For that, you need to create trainings, “pack them” and mount them online so that teachers around the world can use them for self-training and teaching. Those teachers will need to get a space to teach as well.