I pointed out my concerns about our workforce being digitally illiterate. I’m not a fan of all talk and no action. So here are my active suggestions on how we can improve the situation and make us competitive again:
- Invest in technology tool upgrades in our public schools. Take a tour of the average computer lab at public schools here in the US. They are quite out of date and all programs are desktop based. If we were to partner local businesses with school systems, they can subsidize the purchase of inexpensive units that maximize space and usability. Businesses have a vested interest due to the fact that in a decade, many of those children will be their local talent pool from which they’ll be hiring. Check out the Apple learning labs to see an example of a way to bring tech in in a new way. I’m not suggesting that schools can afford this exact option but I’m inspired by the compact design and mobile storage possibilities. This is different than any computer classroom you’ve ever seen.
- Make basic technology proficiency a high school graduation requirement. Not just typing, spreadsheets, and word processing but we need to offer database administration, networking, and web design. These are the skills that are in demand. According to Bloomberg, as of May 2011, Microsoft had 4551 jobs available (in an economy where we have 9.1% unemployed!) yet it takes them an average of 65 days to fill a single position. This figure alone demonstrates that we need to get our youth equipped with skills that all employers are asking for. There is the ICDL or the Internet Computer Driver’s License, the international standard in end-user computer skills. It’s a certification in the practical use of computers and computer applications and is supported by governments, informatics societies, international organizations and corporations globally. ICDL is delivered in 148 countries, through 41 languages. Internationally, many places that one applies for a job, this certification is required.
- Offer more breadth of technology in higher education. Data is king and data analytics, data mining, data manipulation of all sorts is highly in demand. How about game design? Or development courses? Or technological anthropology? The point is, what is being offered is limited and not that helpful in getting undergrads one of the many available jobs in technology.
- Put more money into job training courses like the one in New York City backed by Mayor Bloomberg. When our workers are being let go from their jobs on a Tuesday and they are looking for a job on a Wednesday, how are they any more qualified today than they were yesterday? They aren’t. We need to provide our fellows with the tools they need to be competitive. Business skills, job interview skills, LinkedIn profile writing, business technology 101. Small business development centers, SCORES, state employment offices and SBA funded programs are the perfect delivery device for this type of education. They could even hire out of work educators as trainers and get even more people working.