By Lee Metcalf
The 2020s will see further transformation of business and society around the world because of technology. This means unheard of levels of productivity across every discipline of the construction industry – actually, across every Industry.
At the core of this movement is information technology and the ability to access and harness huge volumes of data, the ability to put the insights from this data at the fingertips of every worker and the ability to create software, programs and visualizations that increase the usefulness and relevance of that information to businesses and to everyday lives.
But this engine of productivity, like any engine, needs fuel. In this instance, that fuel is savvy, creative, motivated people with the right skills who understand how to isolate the business requirement and focus the myriad of IT tools and techniques to best effect. And we will need a lot of them, which means that the 2020s will bring a revolution in education –
one that will inspire more women and young people of color to choose careers in IT.
According to Sarah K. White, senior writer for CIO Online magazine (January 2020), women comprise 47 percent of all employed adults in the U.S., but as of 2015, they hold only 25 percent of computing roles, according to data from the National Center for Women & Information Technology. Of the 25 percent of women working in tech, black and Hispanic women accounted for 3 percent and 1 percent, respectively.
What is happening to reverse this trend? Alignment and collaboration between the educators and employers. Clearly many companies are involved in supporting young people and STEM education on some level. But this is the tip of the iceberg.
Employers are opening their doors to young people earlier and more powerfully than ever before. Employers, school districts and nonprofits like the Girl Scouts will increasingly be working together on levels unheard of in the past. Reaching out to young women to consider careers in industries, such as construction and IT, where they have been underrepresented is a key to our future.
Jennings School District in St. Louis and Superintendent Art McCoy exemplify this. McCoy starts children thinking about the possibilities and careers in the 3rd grade. Each school year, they are increasingly exposed to employers and a wide range of types of work. Even more importantly, Jennings students focus during their high school years on completing key certificates for their chosen industries of interest in health care, construction, manufacturing, IT or the arts. This is the age of STEAM – science, technology, engineering, art and math – and creative ways to inspire involvement.
McCoy has partnered with area businesses to not only fund creative learning experiences in the school but integrate on site learning experiences (the next generation of internships) into the curriculum. At Jennings, students engage in internships with and site visits to companies and institutions such as World Wide Technology, St. Louis College of Pharmacy and Clayco. McCoy has taken the district’s construction career development initiative and put it on steroids.
From graduates leveraging their internship experiences into job opportunities to graduates going on to higher learning, Jennings School District has them. Malik Sediqzad, a graduate who is becoming an architect with a full ride to Harvard, is one of them. The district is claiming success across the board. Women in technology are and will continue to be a big part of the STEAM that is fueling the productivity surge of the coming decade.
Lee J. Metcalf is vice president of community engagement at Daugherty Business Solutions and a retired Navy Reserve Rear Admiral. https://www.daugherty.com/