A Recent Gap In Tech Skills
Technology skills are undoubtedly one of the driving forces of our economy today, and something employers hope for from todays new work force of Generation-Y (born between the 80’s, and 90’s).
The Employers Assumption
As the myth goes, the industry assumes that a generation born and raised around the dawning of the technology era, and by the fact they will spend more then half their life-times in front various screens interacting with technology, these individuals should have high levels of computer aptitude and a diverse set of computing skills . . . Myth!
It’s like claiming, “that since my ancestors were farmers I should therefore continue to be a farmer,” if you are surrounded by something your whole life it doesn’t necessarily portray that you should or will become a part of it.
The Tech Evolution our children missed
I find myself very fortunate to have been a part of this era, as I honestly believe, that my generation could very well be the last of our kind to have witnessed the evolution of computing; from a few pixels on a an ancient CRT screen to complete 3-Dimensional applications running on 50-inch LED Flat panels, from binary to todays modern high level coding.
You would have just had to be a part of this unique time frame to truly appreciate and understand the nitty-gritty world of technology and the leaps we’ve made since. As henceforth you’ll only witness these true leaps through textbooks and other media.
Kids and Their Machines
In fact, even modern textbooks cover high-level concepts of computing ignoring the intricate mechanics; trust me! I’m graduating in this field and half of my classmates (who are excellent coders, and developers) will be terrified of opening up an old computer case.
We’ve just reached a point where the ability to use technology for productivity, for leisure, and the ability to innovate in technology have to be separated in to 3 very distinct categories. However, the problem arises when roughly 70% of undergraduate freshman’s identify themselves into the 1st category of, below average in computer skills; revealed by an UCLA annual freshman survey.
Most of us are pro-efficient at using technology to some degree. For the youth it’s mostly gaming and social media related. Studies show millennials are very competitive gamers, skilled at retrieving and sharing social updates, creators of content through video and audio, and experts at using devices like the iPhone, while remaining completely unaware of the underlying technology in their hands. The Same UCLA survey reveals only 3% of students continue further education in a computer related field . . . in such a vastly growing field?
The latter will find themselves struggling when it comes to editing complex documents and spreadsheets, where just the thought of designing a website or a simple application will seem like an impossible alien task. Lets take a moment to stop and think how this problem originated?
Lack of IT in our Education Systems
Up until post secondary exposure to IT education is very limited across almost all major curriculums. Skills gained by individuals are usually picked up through stand-alone institutions or sheer interest.
These are real challenges that our educational institutes face; its difficult to offer up to date technology courses, as the industry evolves so rapidly, new technology is becoming obsolete up to 5 times a year. In order to teach the most current technologies institutions would have to incur huge sums of continuous investments, which may not return profits before the expiration of the technology. Slowly but surely these issues are being addressed by the open source community providing free or low cost online tutorials, (W3Schools, Khan Academy, Udacity, CodeAcademy, MIT Open Courseware, Tree House).
Does Technology Make us dumb?
With various other factors leveraging inn, the tech industry definitely picked up the lack of computer literacy in the average consumer and are now constantly facing the challenge of simplifying and integrating their design process. The iPad is a perfect example, its users range from toddlers all the way through to medical staff. You don’t need any additional skills to use an iPad; products today arguably add to lack of computer literacy in the youth as we strive for simplicity.
However minute these issues may sound, employers are facing real problems with the lack of computer literacy and tech knowledge amongst their applicants. High level of computer literacy would indicate more productive employees, less training, and lower investment towards IT infrastructure support and maintenance. The bigger a company gets, these costs skyrocket and are viewed as lowered overall productivity. Moreover the 40% annual growth in the IT industry worldwide alone should be incentive for improvements within the IT Educational sector.
In the not very distant future when more than half of everything we own will be networked and do some degree of processing, our inability to understand the machines which make us productive may just be the beginning to our demise . . .