tech skills

Are we truly helping our students build workforce-ready skills?

A new survey delves into the impending STEM pipeline shortage by asking educators if they're confident in teaching higher-level technology skills

Concerns about college graduates being under-prepared to enter the workforce are rooted in K-12 technology and career-readiness skills, as many district leaders wonder if teachers are confident enough to teach the higher-level skills our future workers need.

A 2018 study from PwC and the Business-Higher Education Forum reflects a growing worry about the gap between the expectations of educators and the expectations of business executives when it comes to preparing students for entry into the workforce.

That study shows that 79 percent of CEOs are worried that a shortage of highly trained workers with the right STEM and computing skills will inhibit their companies’ expansion.

PwC next surveyed more than 2,000 K-12 educators to better understand the struggles teachers face as they help young people build digital skills, and that survey sheds some light on the realities of equipping students with the skills they’ll need for future success.

The biggest takeaway: Most teachers aren’t confident teaching higher-level technology skills. Teachers know there’s value in helping students build higher-level tech skills such as data analytics, computer programming, and robotics, but only 10 percent of K-12 teachers say they feel confident incorporating this kind of technology into student learning.

Sixty-four percent of K-12 teachers say they feel more emphasis should be placed on teaching technology. More schools offer computer fundamentals (76 percent), graphic design (66 percent), engineering (63 percent), and robotics (58 percent) than computer programming (54 percent), app design and creation (35 percent), and data analytics (20 percent).

Active and passive technology consumption are very different, and surveyed teachers say 60 percent of their classroom technology use is passive, such as watching videos or reading websites. Just 32 percent of technology use is active, meaning students are creating, such as coding, producing videos, or performing data analysis. It is this active technology consumption, experts say, that helps students develop and practice the high-level skills they’ll need for workforce success.

Teachers also say they want more from their school districts–79 percent say they want more professional development for tech-related subjects so they can build confidence as they teach those higher-level skills.

Students’ lack of home access to tech tools and the internet makes it more difficult for teachers to integrate higher-level technology skills into the classroom. Forty-eight percent of teachers say their students lack home device access, and 54 percent say their students don’t have home internet access. Only 36 percent of teachers say their school has at least one device per student.

Students in underserved schools are even more likely to lack access to technology at home. A significant portion of teachers in these schools say many students do not have home access to devices (64 percent) or the internet (69 percent). By contrast, only about one-third of teachers in affluent schools say some students lack access to devices or the internet at home, 27 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

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Laura Ascione

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