2:45 A.M. is early. Real early. Especially when you’ve had a hard time sleeping because you know that you’re going to be on live TV in a few hours. Getting some decent shut-eye is difficult when you are constantly considering just how bad things could go. Will my mind go blank? Will my statements be coherent? Should I invest in a yurt out in the remote wilderness in case I royally mess things up and want to completely disappear from society? Such was my state of mind earlier this week.
Several months ago, Holly Menino, a reporter with KUTV News in Salt Lake City, attended a local technology event and happened to sit at the same table as Noel Vallejo, TestOut’s CEO, and John Harris, our VP of Sales. A conversation ensued and Menino invited TestOut to be featured on an early morning STEM education segment hosted by KUTV. The bosses liked the idea and, almost before we knew what had hit us, Gregory Shaffer and I had the task of speaking on “The forgotten ‘T’ of STEM education.”
Information Technology (IT) is something we here at TestOut are passionate about. We want to spread the word that students can land rewarding careers in IT. The demand for trained professionals is surging and we, as a nation, are hard-pressed to fill all the openings. There are great jobs out there right now, waiting to be filled by dedicated and ambitious students! And barring a cataclysmic meteor strike or any other extinction level event, IT jobs will continue to be in high demand for the foreseeable future.
This is especially true here in Utah where tech jobs have grown so much that IT employment facilitator Dice has rated us as the second fastest growing state for tech jobs (Dice Report — Aug. 2015). Nationwide, the unemployment rate for tech professionals is just 2.1 percent. That means that not only can students entering the workforce look forward to landing a good job, they’re more likely to hold on to that job as well.
Yet student interest in technology jobs hasn’t matched the demand for qualified applicants. It’s still surprising for me to hear of school IT programs struggling to stay afloat and constantly needing to justify their value. Why is this? It might be as simple as students not knowing what’s out there and what’s possible. If only a few students at the school show interest in an IT program, it’s certainly more difficult to justify keeping it around.
So how do we help students remember the oft forgotten “T” in STEM? To start, we need to spread the word that IT is booming, and it’s only going to get better.
I personally know a couple of IT instructors who really put on the fanfare to laud their students’ successes. At one school in particular, each time a student passes a certification, the instructor announces it to the whole school over the PA system and give examples of jobs they now qualify for, along with how much those jobs might pay. When students hear that they could be earning quite a bit more than their minimum wage-making friends, they’re suddenly very interested.
Regardless of the method used to generate interest in IT, we can all help students remember that the “T” in STEM doesn’t just stand for technology. It also stands for good pay, rewarding careers, and job security.
Which brings me back to the live TV segment. Gregory unfortunately was bedridden with the flu, so I was flying solo. Fortunately, my insomnia-inducing concerns of utter humiliation proved unfounded. The news crew was great and made me feel comfortable — it turned out that the executive producer and I grew up together.
We ended up chatting so much that I didn’t even have time to get nervous before the segment aired. The cameraman signaled that we were on and, in my humble opinion, the whole segment turned out pretty well. I believe I was able to convey to students the reality that there are some great careers to be had in IT.
So, I guess my plan of buying a yurt and isolating myself from society is going to need a different excuse.
About the Author — Wes Arnold is LabSim Product Marketing Manager at TestOut and has been with the company since LabSim was shipped out on CDs (his first job here actually). He loves interacting with TestOut’s customers and thrives on providing them with a top-tier experience. He is passionate about hockey, aviation, fly-fishing, and firmly believes that a person cannot own too many Atari 2600s.