Schools across the country celebrated the first-ever National Techies Day Oct. 5, an event designed to show appreciation for technology professionals and encourage students to pursue careers in technology.
Techies Day organizers and supportersincluding the Department of Commerce, TECH CORPS, and Federal Expressjoined with co-founders techies.com and the online news source C/NET to focus national attention on the nation’s shortfall of technology workers and to encourage leaders in government, business, and education to work together to address the problem.
A kick-off event took place at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., with 20 TECH CORPS volunteers addressing students in classrooms and an assembly for students and local businesses. The event featured appearances by Commerce Secretary William Daley and Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and honorary chairperson of Techies Day.
Also in the nation’s capital, representatives from the Association for Competitive Technology (ACT), an IT industry trade group, and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., a champion for school technology, met with students to encourage them to consider technology-related careers.
“Unfortunately, this day is needed since we are approaching the start of the next century and our nation continues to lag behind in the size of its technology workforce,” Larson lamented. “As a former teacher, I know that the best way to support our future workforce is in the classroom.”
Here’s a roundup of some of the other school-related events that took place in conjunction with National Techies Day:
• In Memphis, the city’s Chamber of Commerce placed 300 local technology pros in classrooms throughout the city to discuss technology careers.
• In San Francisco, 200 students visited Sony’s Metreon entertainment center, took a behind-the-scenes tour of how the Metreon works, and had a question-and-answer lunch with the engineers.
• In Boston, Newton North High School students heard from a panel of technology professionals from Sun Life of Canada about career opportunities in technology.
• In Houston, Compaq Computer donated $250,000 to the TECH CORPS Telementoring Network, a pilot program developed by TECH CORPS that links online technology experts with technology coordinators in schools. The pilot will concentrate on underserved and rural communities.
• In Minneapolis, students from Phalen Lake Elementary School met with technology professionals organized by techies.com and attended an assembly featuring Lt. Governor Mae Schrunk.
• In New York, technology executives from 24/7 Media conducted interactive classroom presentations at the Young Women’s Leadership School, the city’s only all-girls public high school.
Recent studies have shown that fewer students are studying the requisite math and science classes to prepare for technology careers, even as the number of those jobs increases significantly.
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently took a deep look at the issue in its report, “The Digital Work Force: Building Infotech Skills at the Speed of Innovation.” The report found that many factors affect the supply and quality of IT workers. These include a poor image of the IT profession, lack of career information and encouragement for students, the need for increased competency in math and science, challenges in the IT teaching infrastructure, and failure to attract underrepresented groups to the profession.
What’s more, a survey conducted by Techies Day organizers found that a large portion of Americans, and particularly those just entering the work force, don’t realize there is such a shortage. Overall, 26 percent of those polled said they were unaware of the shortage, while the percentage jumps to 42 percent in the 18-24 age group.
Here are some other notable findings from the “American Views on Technology” survey:
• When it comes to encouraging more elementary students to study math and science and to prepare for technology careers, 65 percent said we need to improve teacher training in technology and 54 percent said technology should be a mandatory part of the public school curriculum.
• Being a technology guru is the new American Dream, with 75 percent of respondents saying parents should encourage their children to study technology over business; 72 percent over medicine; and 58 percent over law. More than half of all respondents would pursue technology careers if they could go back and do it over.
• Respondents named Bill Gates as the “Techie of the Century,” followed by Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers. The computer was named “Tech Invention of the Century,” followed by television and the automobile.
Techies Day home page
U.S. Department of Commerce