Recently, a Texas state representative told a disturbing story about one school administration in his district. With business grants given to the school, the district had compiled enough funds for a computer lab.
However, someone in the school’s senior leadership felt the district needed a new high school scoreboard as well. Somehow, the money assigned in the budget for the computer labs was reassigned to pay for the scoreboard.
High school football is a big draw for every school in Texas. We cheer on our young people who play the game, perform in the band’s half time show, and lead us in cheers. But, as the state representative also noted “This district has yet to produce an NFL player.”
Instead, many of these schools’ graduates will not attend college. Most will follow their forefathers in acquiring low-paying jobs such as landscaping or seasonal construction projects. Others may find a job at their local Target.
Redirecting the funding from a computer lab to a scoreboard will probably limit the technical career aspirations of many in this school district. With the ability to teach coding, information security and other IT skills, that school could have shown its students that they didn’t need to become a brain surgeon to work on computers.
The repercussions of this administrative decision stretch far beyond these individual students or school. It impacts the region’s ability to attract new businesses. The jobs that could have been filled by these students will continue to be filled by immigrant resources with H1B Visas. The majority of them will make between $60,000-$120,000/year in IT development, quality assurance, and project management roles. A portion of their salaries will go to shore up our Social Security, Unemployment and other social aid programs, many of which will be taken advantage of by students of this particular school.
Across the United States, 69.2 percent of high school students go on to college directly after graduation according to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015). Within the poorer areas of each state, that number is significantly lower. In addition, high school dropouts had an unemployment rate of 27-percent while those with a college bachelor’s degree had an unemployment rate of 4.5 percent.
TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE CURSOR
According to a 2016 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional business services which contain IT management and technical consulting services outperformed healthcare and financial service markets in job growth for the prior year while all other markets remained flat. The only exception was mining employment, which continued to decline.
So, 30-percent of high school graduates who don’t go to college will either be unemployed or employed at low-earning jobs.Meanwhile, local corporations are starving for IT talent and are either bringing their talent in from overseas or offshoring their IT development needs. These jobs are being handled by immigrants who have some IT development training and surround themselves with a support network, should they get a job over their heads.
If we continue developing a handful of IT resources, the demand for offshore resources will remain higher. And, to become a programmer, it doesn’t require a 4-year degree but rather one to two years of programming education. This is the same, or less time, than it takes to become an electrician – a high-paying vocational position.
IT jobs are on the rise; there will never cease to be a need for information technology! Manufacturing, construction, mining and other industries will continue to evolve and automate. Technology, computers, machines, and robots will continue to replace humans in the workforce. The only choice for our younger work force is to have them jump in front of technology or be crushed by it.
Technological innovation combined with increasing offshore investment will eventually widen the chasm between the classes in the U.S. Lower classes will point to capitalistic corporations as the reason for their fate. Corporations without sanctions or penalties will go wherever they need to in order to reduce costs, leapfrog competition, and improve shareholder wealth.
In the past, we were upset about manufacturing jobs going offshore because of lower labor costs. Today, we invite people into the country to take our IT jobs because we don’t train our own citizens on this market opportunity. We passively, if at all, teach high school students IT basics — generally with outdated computers and software no longer used by local companies. Information Technology is a continuously growing and very lucrative field, and should be recognized and understood by all to be a viable career option.
Hopefully, someday soon, school administrators will realize the twinkling cursor on a computer screen promises more of a future to their students than the colorful lights of a football scoreboard.
Tony Streeter is the Chief Marketing Officer, SVP at Y&L Consulting, Inc. in San Antonio. Tony has led new product development, Ecommerce marketing, and integrated platform marketing initiatives for major corporations such as Harland Clarke, Deluxe Corporation and RR Donnelley. Y&L Consulting is a comprehensive IT services & solutions company specializing in IT Development, Information Management/BI, and IT Helpdesk Services.