Low Bar for High School Students Threatens Tech Sector

By the end of this decade, analysts predict the U.S. could face a shortage of 12 million qualified workers for the faster-growing employment sectors. The solution, Datamation's guest columnist writes, begins in high school.


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After plummeting from historical highs, information technology employment seems to have stabilized. Most IT functions have no difficulty meeting their hiring plans, yet there also has not been downward pressure on salaries, suggesting we have reached a momentary equilibrium.

The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts the overall labor force will grow 1.4 percent annually between 2002 and 2012, slightly slower than the previous 10-year period. Job growth in the service-providing industries will continue to outpace growth in goods-producing industries and some of the fastest-growing occupations will be in our sector.

Computer specialists (software engineers, systems analysts and network and computer systems administrators), computer and information systems managers and computer repair specialists -- all positions that require highly developed logic, problem-solving, and listening skills, as well as a sophisticated understanding of customers' industries -- will be in strong demand.

Unsettling Statistics

The trouble is, while we will need workers with higher-level skills and educational requirements than ever before, the U.S. Department of Education reports that seven out of 10 students nationally graduate from high school without completing the courses needed to succeed in college or in the workplace.

Of those who go on to college, 49 percent require remedial courses. Students who must take remedial courses are significantly less likely to complete two- or four-year college degrees. By the end of this decade, analysts predict that our nation could face a shortage of 12 million qualified workers for the faster-growing employment sectors.

One reason many students fail to complete the rigorous academic courses considered necessary preparation for postsecondary education and jobs is that no one explains to them the long-term consequences of their high school coursework choices. Many students -- and their parents -- mistakenly believe that high school courses don't matter, that they can "make it up" with a GED or college.

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