Retaining and Recruiting a High Tech Workforce

 

The Magic of Technology meets the Shortage of Qualified Workers

 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that “between 2012 and 2022, 1.3 million jobs will need to be filled - from new jobs and replacement needs - for computer occupations and information systems managers.”

With a goal of bringing computer science to every school in America, Code.org is creating a revolution one class at a time. Last year, 20 million students participated in the Hour of Code and 50 percent of them were girls. This year the goal is 100 million students.  Skype in the Classroom aspires to create the world’s biggest classroom by connecting educators and experts to students everywhere.

A few lessons from history can provide some insight into developing the workforce of tomorrow, learning from those who built the foundation of many of the storytelling, educational, mathematical, process, and scientific approaches that are still familiar today:

  • Ancient China, circa 500 BCE, Confucius taught followers elaborate rules and practices
  • Ancient Greece, circa 350 BCE, Plato taught famous student Aristotle
  • Thereafter, Alexander the Great learning from Aristotle…
  • In the 15th Century Italy, Leonardo da Vinci was apprenticed to Verrocchio, whose workshop included other famous painters Domenico Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Botticelli, and Lorenzo di Credi.
  • In 17th century England, Sir Isaac Newton famously said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

It’s easy to get inspired by the history of teaching and how humanity has passed along wisdom through the ages.

Importantly, every one of them learned from a great teacher or set of influencers.

These ancient worlds are long gone - the best students and teachers no longer live together as they did centuries ago. Today, the best teachers are spread all across the planet in various walks of life. Plato’s opportunities to teach students like Aristotle in his Academy benefited by everyone living in the same location– and the global village of the 21st century distributes excellence across the planet.

Socrates said, “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Imagine if Socrates, Confucius, Aristotle and others throughout history had access to Skype to make a call and share their learnings with learners around the world.

Our world today is bigger and more distributed than ever before.  Population growth in developing countries combined with an increase in overall longevity are distributing the workforce population more widely than ever. There is a big challenge in the years ahead for HR professionals to grow, recruit, and retain a technical workforce.  

Today, we can bring the finest teachers and students together through the magic of technology. We live in amazing times. The world of human knowledge is accessible and searchable from the phone in our pocket – no Library of Alexandria required! We have instant access to family and friends across the world. We can broadcast our thoughts to millions through social media.  The transfer of knowledge happens faster today than any other time in history, and it’s inspiring to see where this will take us.  It’s a great time to be a human on this planet.

Today’s HR professionals must plan for this coming shortage of tech workers. Traditional “non-tech” companies in retail, logistics, entertainment and media, finance, services, and many others are now relying on technology and “big data” to run their businesses, so the importance of growing the pipeline, recruiting, and retention are more important than ever.

Just 19 percent of 2009 graduates were computer science, down from 25 percent in 1990.

Programs like Skype in the Classroom, Hour of Code and many of the new K-12 STEM programs are trying to address the shortages by re-creating a virtual equivalent of Plato’s Academy. LA Unified school district just announced a plan to teach all K-12 students. Students throughout England have coding classes. Middle-schoolers in Alabama are in new classes. It’s exciting to see, but there is a lot more work to do. Many schools still do not have formal computer classes that can get kids interested and excited about the magic of computer science. Code.org and 2014 Hour of Code can help bridge this gap.

We face an exciting time in human history. Technology is delivering capabilities in business and society that we could not dream of just a generation ago. We can see the value of an increasing investment in a high tech workforce, and are already seeing the impact of a shortage of high tech talent. 

It’s a great time for HR professionals to think ahead towards the burgeoning need for high tech workers. The ability for tomorrow’s workforce to learn from industry professionals and practitioners around the world is now more scalable and far-reaching than in Aristotle’s day. We live in times of great technological change, and developing talent to carry us forward is a critical component of the most successful organizations of the future.

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.
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