The Next Generation of Invention


Inner City and Native American Teens and Technology

We live in amazing times! The rise of technology is unprecedented, and the opportunities for “high tech” to influence our work and life is unprecedented. We can make a Skype call to elderly parents overseas. Almost all of human knowledge is accessible on a device in our pocket or purse. We can converse in different languages. We can watch video or play games that are more engaging that real life. Yet, amidst all the magic, there is one gaping hole – a growing chasm that threatens this progress that challenges us as we advance society: A dramatic shortage of tech workers.

This is expressed in many different ways in many different forums: the talent pipeline, STEM Education, worker visas, recruiting, remote work, offshoring or outsourcing. Make no mistake - it’s very real.  As more industries move towards digitizing their work flow– from online shopping to insurance claims to call center operations – the demand for tech workers continues to rise. This is a wonderful thing if you happen to be a tech worker. But it’s a scary thing to look at as a society – particularly in the U.S. – where the coming shortage will have a real impact.

As an industry, those of us in Tech can put forth the call out to students – with an open invitation to dive in and consider a STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) career. It’s a great life = the coming shortage of tech workers will serve you well when it comes to salary, benefits, time off. Netflix recently offered unlimited parental leave.

Society and industry face great challenges in how to train and hire a technical workforce.  The laws of supply and demand will work in favor of those who pursue this as a career!

Through history, the world’s greatest scientific minds – Pythagoras, Aristotle, Galileo, Da Vinci, Einstein, Edison, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and many others – all have changed our world by bringing their technical insights to the masses.  Technology can be as inspiring as pure magic – and the invitation to explore is open to all. If we can expose today’s students to what’s possible, they will dream up amazing new technology. As science fiction write Arthur C. Clarke wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

However, the shortages are real. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the United States will have generated roughly 1.4 million new jobs in computer science by 2020 that may go unfilled.

In an effort to get ahead of the curve, Deena Pierott has done amazing work to found iUrbanTeen and Tracy Monteith with his work with Native American teens - to pull together resources across industries to provide opportunities to connect these teens with technology to seed the pipeline to help plug this technology gap. The two recently partnered with Microsoft and Skype in the Classroom to host iUrbanTeen Day at Microsoft to introduce these students to the world of high tech. As Tracy commented, “Students from tribal backgrounds have a unique opportunity to develop marketable professional skills in STEM fields that in turn enables a virtuous cycle of educational and economic growth on their reservation system.”

This has been a celebration of youth – building programs to introduce these kids to the magic of technology – and to help build a pipeline to create a future workforce. Deena added, "Pathways, careers, opportunities and a supportive gateway is what most youth and their families need.”

When we talk to the kids, Alexia Franklin, 16, wants to fight cybercrime. Samuel Goode, 13, wants to use technology to reduce child poverty. Ceon Duncan-Graves wants to make life easier with 3D-printed things. What kind of things? “Maybe teleportation,” said Ceon, a 13 year-old eighth grader from Federal Way, south of Seattle. “That would be cool.” (more)

"It's especially exciting to see those who had never previously been exposed to the possibilities that a STEM education can provide, find their niche and want to make a difference in the world around them. Learning to be a 'maker' and exposure to technology will be helpful in any career,” added Sarah Hubbard, a Microsoft Intern on the Skype team who helped organize the event,.

How do these worlds come together?  A shout out to the White House Champions of Change program – where Deena and I first crossed paths – and were inspired to join forces to bring these worlds together.  Programs like iUrbanTeen, Skype in the Classroom and are examples of many great programs targeted at generating student interest in computer science.

As we move further in to the 21st century, the world of work faces interesting challenges, where automation starts to encroach upon human employment. It’s important for all of us to think about the influence of technology on our lives. It’s great that Siri or Cortana can help us with our schedules, but we need high tech students to fill the human gaps.

The next generation of technologists – these iUrbanTeen and Native American students are on a wonderful path to change the world. They will bring ideas that inspire a greater future for all of us!  It’s great to see people like Deena and Tracy putting forth the effort to introduce the next generation to technology.


For more information and to volunteer, also see:

American Indian Science and Engineering Society


Skype in the Classroom

Event Photos


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