Inspiring The Younger Generation To Work In Tech

May 9, 2017 · Guest blog from Richie Santosdiaz, economic development expert, adjunct lecturer and founder of Young American Expat.

Screen shot 2017 05 09 at 11.56.50

From a young age a common answer to the age-old question of "What do you want to be when you grow up," tends to be answers ranging from doctor, lawyer, or police officer. However, hearing, "Mum and dad I want to work in tech" is still a relatively new answer. The meaning of tech has evolved in such a short period of time that it encompasses such a broad range of sectors - from fintech to edtech to medtech to agritech.

The younger generation is very keen to embrace tech in their personal lives because this is all they know. How often do we see babies as young as 3 playing with iPads? Nevertheless, how do we get and inspire the younger generation to pursue a career in the tech sector? So from when they are young their answer would be "I want to create a start-up" or "I want to be a venture capitalist."

There are several initiatives to help do just that. Just in the UK alone, there have been many apprenticeships, awareness campaigns, and groups that are encouraging the younger generation to think tech as part of their future careers. For instance, there is The Tech Partnership, which is the network of employers collaborating to create the skills for the UK digital economy. Their ambition is to deliver the skills for a million digital jobs by 2025.

There are also other great initiatives out there to help boost young people in tech as well, especially those from underrepresented groups. For example, TechFuture Girls is an out-of- the-box after-school club that has been specifically designed to encourage girls to stay engaged in IT. So far, 19,000 girls have attended TechFuture Girls clubs in 1500 schools across the UK.

Despite all of these great efforts in targeting the young generation, this simply is not enough and society needs to be targeting children from even a very early age.

First, children need to be exposed to tech from a very early age in the media – everything from children’s television, print, and toys. Such a daunting feat but not impossible for sure. After all, multinationals in TV, print and toys have created protagonists and stories that inspire children to be various professions such as doctors or police officers. Why not do the same in tech? Well, this might slowly be changing. For example, Sophie Deen created Edtech company Bright Little Labs – a Sesame Street for the digital age. She has created stories about Detective Dot, a nine-year- old coder and agent for the Children’s Intelligence Agency.

It is not just creating tech-focused characters and inspirational materials that society needs to inspire the younger generation to work in tech. Innovation in the characters and toys previous generations people grew up and loved can also go through a tech revamp and further inspire young people. There was an attempt, with initial (funny enough mostly technical problems), to bring Barbie to the digital age with a tech dreamhouse. Multinationals in bringing their beloved characters must find the balance and also themselves understand what tech can do to enhance, and not deter, the essence of their characters or products. However, Mattel, the maker of Barbie, seem to have done a great job in launching and integrating a Careers Game Developer Doll last year, showing future young girls the career they too can potentially be.

Also, children need to be taught the diversities of tech as well. Even for adults new to tech it seems to be a broad and daunting task to comprehend that the sector encompasses quite a wide range of sub-sectors. However, for future generations to one day pursue careers in tech, the focus cannot simply be on a certain subsector or a career such as a developer but also on a wide range of what tech encompasses. Children shouldn’t be drilled intensely the diversity of tech but rather that many things they will encounter in life will encompass tech. Tech today is touching many sectors and has encompassed a wide range of sub-sectors – and keeps changing.

Finally, tech’s rapid evolution and innovation should definitely be implanted in the minds of future generations from a young age. After all, many statistics and articles have mentioned that many people who will be eventually be pursuing tech careers will one day be applying for jobs that currently, do not exist. Innovation in the way of thinking can be fostered and encouraged at such a young age.

A favourite game for many young children is Hot Wheels. It makes both race cars and also has a race car game where one would construct a track for cars to go on and speed via a battery/electric charged booster. Imagine the joy for many to have an unlimited supply of race car tracks (with the battery boosters of course) to build an infinite race track extravaganza?

Or even something simpler, how about the game Dominoes? Not the pizza chain spelt incorrectly but the timeless rectangular shape that has a bunch of circles. Despite having its own game and rules, as the circles actually represent something, many people enjoyed stacking dominoes together standing up and creating a "domino effect" with it and knock one down and let the others follow suit. Imagine if children (and adults) were given an endless supply of dominoes in a large room to create their own domino effect track.

Games like Hot Wheels and Dominoes allowed for us to really think innovatively and for the evolving world of tech, games and products young children have should continue to foster that way of thinking. They should also allow for children to understand the diversity of tech and also inspire young children to one day be like their favourite character or product. To truly boost tech and inspire the younger generation, society must truly be targeting all aspects of the human life cycle to embrace it.

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