Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Creating IT Futures: Teens, Parents and Tech Careers

Aug 26, 2014
Note: This is part of an ongoing series about research into how urban teens and parents relate to tech careers.

How do parents feel about their children’s potential for IT education and employment?
This was just one of the questions Creating IT Futures was seeking to answer as the organization undertook a substantial research project earlier this year looking into youth and IT careers.

Partnering with Versta Research and Doyle Research, the foundation surveyed both urban African-American and Hispanic/Latino teens and parents to understand better both groups’ hopes and expectations for the future and their perceptions and awareness of careers in IT.

In a previous blog we focused on the students. Some of the findings on parents surprised us as well.

When it comes to planning for the future:
  • Teens rely on parents more than any one else (by far) to help them explore ideas about the future — way more than teachers, coaches, counselors or other school officials.
  • Nearly all parents want more for their kids than the parents themselves have attained in terms of jobs and financial success. 
Regarding education:
  • 96% of parents believe their children must finish high school or they will not be successful in life.
  • 62% of parents think their children must attend college to be successful.
  • 32% of parents prefer their children to attend college but think it would be okay not to attend so long as their child got a good job.
  • Nearly all parents say that higher education is a good financial investment, but over half (52%) say that cost is a barrier. 
And regarding IT jobs and careers, we learned:
  • Fewer than a third of parents know what the acronym “IT” stands for or have a personal connection to someone who works in IT.
  • 37% of parents mistakenly think that a career in IT requires a four-year degree or higher, and nearly all parents believe that to be successful in IT, their child must do really well in math and science (also a common myth).
  • Well over half of parents surveyed would strongly encourage their child to seek out a career in technology, and 79% of them believe that their child would be good at it as well. These statistics tell us a number of key things about how parents can be a catalyst for bringing young people to IT careers. 
Creating IT Futures is exploring interventions and programs that can dramatically move the needle for more young people discovering a calling in information technology. Clearly, with so many companies struggling to fill their ranks with trained, reliable workers when they need them, there is much work to be done on the part of educators, businesses, and parents to help young people connect the dots to a rewarding career.

With the strong connection between teens and their parents, it is clear that helping adults to understand IT careers and opportunities is a critical step in the process of bringing teens to IT. And as part of that, parents must be equipped to provide that information and guidance to their teens.

Parents need to know that there are a number of IT jobs available that do not require a four-year college degree or costly training. Motivated young people can and should pursue IT careers whether or not they are interested in or excel at math and science.

Furthermore, the IT profession might need a branding makeover. “IT” sounds like Greek to many. Might “technologist” be a term that is more instantly understood by teens and their parents? Dispelling myths and removing barriers to the profession will be key if the IT pipeline is to be filled with more young workers.

One finding is clear: When it comes to the tech career equation, parents should not be ignored as part of the solution.

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