New skills for a changing economy: We must start teaching our children well
As the world becomes increasingly digital, will getting an IT certification become as important as earning a diploma? There is clear evidence that traditional education has led to higher pay and better jobs in the 20th century, but what about the need for technical education in the 21st century? Could the "three Rs" (reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic) of the industrial economy be supplanted by the "three Ws" (World Wide Web) of the new economy?
As the networked economy becomes dominated by electronic commerce, more sophisticated technology skills will be in demand.
In addition, the proliferation of broad-band distribution pipes followed by the emergence of an entertainment economy will require multimedia talent. This will lead to an overwhelming demand for "Web artisans" to develop the required business, marketing, and communications systems. Unfortunately, these workers are scarce.
Demand for skilled workers
Our nation must move quickly to provide the programs and resources to help close the technology-skills gap - a gap that has left more than 10 percent of all technology-related jobs unfilled in the United States and is threatening the country's economic vitality.
The current IT workforce in the United States is reported to be 3,354,000 people, including programmers, system analysts, and computer engineers. There are approximately 346,000 positions open today. The critical problems of America's "missing in action" IT professionals could place the country's competitive position at a severe risk. Tragically, IT courses targeting our youthful workforce are virtually nonexistent.
The data above doesn't consider the demand for Web workers in e-commerce. Forrester Research predicts that worldwide sales for e-commerce may reach $3.2 trillion in 2003 - or about 5 percent of all global sales. Where will we get the skilled workers to create and manage this booming Web storefront market? Today's "Generation Y" is 60 million strong. They're growing up digital in an analog educational system that doesn't have the resources to teach them the skills they will need to compete in this emerging multitrillion-dollar marketplace.
In today's high-tech environment, skill certification is the best way for companies to learn if an applicant has "the right stuff." There are more than 300,000 Microsoft Certified Professionals and almost 500,000 Novell Certified NetWare Engineers. With the current stock of highly trained, highly skilled technical experts at critically low levels, Microsoft Certified System Engineers average $67,000 per year. Those who can pass the grueling Cisco certification can command salaries starting at about $100,000.
In the 1999 Jobs Rated Almanac, the top-rated job, in terms of workplace environment, income, future prospects, physical demands, job security, and stress, is the Web site manager, at a $75,761 midrange salary.
Young Web artisans
Today's certification programs are vendor-specific and exclusively target adults. If our next generation of knowledge workers is to fuel the new economy, they must get certified in many additional IT skills. As the Web replaces television, multimedia and animation skills will grow in demand. Most Microsoft, Novell, and Cisco certified professionals haven't a creative clue about how to create images and sounds that communicate dynamic ideas over digital networks.
The solution to this problem is to train and certify the millions of teenagers who have greater aptitude than most adults for mastering highly technical multimedia skills. Could this untapped resource fill the technology workforce gap and fuel the new economy?
-------------------------- Philip Cruver is a serial entrepreneur who is launching his sixth start-up company. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. --------------------------- Calling all peers -- Peer to Peer is written by and for InfoWorld readers. Send your submissions to Opinions Editor Kristin Kueter at email@example.com. ***************************************************** * Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org