Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Love of Technology Does Not Always Translate into Career Interest

by Anna Matthai on June 12, 2012, CompTIA
For recent generations the digital era is not an emerging trend but simply the status quo. Previous generations have had to learn or “un-learn” and part ways with legacy technologies before adopting new technologies, but Gen Y (aka “millennials” born 1982-1994) and Gen Z (aka “digital natives” born 1995-2011) have been immersed in the technologies of the digital era since day one. Downloading an app or trying to get to what she needs on a computer is second nature to my six-year-old daughter who cannot comprehend a world without smartphones and “on-demand” access to everything.
CompTIA’s Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology (IT) study confirms the overwhelmingly positive views of technology held by teens and young adults. A nearly ubiquitous 97 percent (NET) report loving/liking technology. The research indicates teens are more than just technology consumers. More than half of respondents in the CompTIA study report frequently serving as a facilitator of technology, helping family members or friends with questions or troubleshooting problems with computers, software, mobile devices or related technologies. An additional one-third of respondents report providing “tech support” services at least occasionally.
CompTIA research shows a relatively small pool of students with definitive interest in a career in IT, but a much larger pool of “maybes.” This seems consistent with the level of uncertainty surrounding careers in general at that stage in life. An analysis of perceptions of IT careers reveals some positives and some negatives. Students see a strong relationship between certain IT careers and an aptitude for math and science. Interestingly, more respondents perceived of IT careers as an opportunity to help people than an opportunity to earn a large paycheck or engage in fun or interesting work.
Additionally, only 26 percent of respondents believe IT occupations are in demand, which is unusual given the low unemployment rate for IT workers and the approximately 300,000 IT job openings as of April 2012, according to the job board aggregator Indeed. This may reflect a feeling of cynicism toward the job market in general.
When presented with specific areas within IT, teens and young adults express much stronger interest. At the top, nearly half of the respondents could see themselves potentially designing video games, while 41 percent could envision creating apps for mobile devices. Video game design was especially high among boys, with an interest rate of 69 percent. Conversely, girls showed relatively more interest in web design (40 percent vs. 38 percent for boys). Clearly, specific examples of IT occupations resonate more than a generic reference to IT.
According to the data, lack of familiarity with the IT field is cited by teens and young adults as a primary factor contributing to low interest in the IT career path. This knowledge gap exists for boys and girls at about the same rate. The other primary reason for a reluctance to consider an IT career is a general lack of interest in the field of IT. This factor rates especially high among girls (53 percent vs. 28 percent for boys). CompTIA’s Advancing Women in IT community aims to inspire women to consider IT as a career choice.
As noted previously, the data shows that teenage boys and girls love technology; many are power users helping family members, and many express interest in specific areas of technology such as mobile app design. And yet, 44 percent indicate a lack of interest in the IT field. Clearly, the many stakeholders affected by this situation, such as educators, IT companies, career developers and really anyone relying on technological innovation, have to put their heads together to figure out ways to address this challenge.
To learn more about youth opinions of the IT industry, check out the Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology (IT) study. The complete report is available at no cost to CompTIA members who can access the report at www.comptia.org or by contacting research@comptia.org.

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