Looking for a new job? The biggest problems STEM from a lack of proper training

A great many Americans complain about jobs leaving the country or immigrants taking the jobs of Americans. An H-1B is a visa which allows U.S. companies to employ highly skilled foreign workers. Not surprisingly, nearly two-thirds of immigrants working in the U.S. via an H-1B are working in computer-related fields.

Infographic: The Tech Sector's Reliance on Highly-Skilled Immigrants | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

There are many job opening in the U.S. According to Forbes, in 2014, there were 4 million unfilled job openings in the U.S. In 2015, CNN reported that there  were 5.8 million unfilled positions. Not surprisingly, most jobs are for computer related positions. Even executive secretarial, or administrative assistant positions today necessitate a college degree. Roughly 65% of job postings for these executive assistant positions today require a college degree. But among current executive secretaries, only 19% have college degrees, according to Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor. There are millions of unemployed people today, but if these positions are going to be filled, more people will have to get college degrees.

An objective look at the job market, however, clearly shows that while technology is increasingly deployed in higher-level recruiting efforts, it is underutilized in services and support sectors – such as retail – which require less specific skill sets and tend to have high turnover among predominantly low-wage positions. With so many openings and so many unemployed people, these jobs should in theory be relatively easy to fill, but many businesses are failing to recruit well-qualified candidates – and too many of these types of jobs remain open.

Retail jobs are hard to secure

To better understand this, Adam Lewis, a freelance contributor with Forbes attempted to walk in these job applicants shoes. Lewis applied for one of these retail jobs. As a walk-in candidate, he went to several well-known global brands in New York City to apply for these job openings. At the first store, after a wait, he was handed brief instructions on a piece of receipt paper printed from the register directing him to the company’s website. He tried doing accessing the information, but it wasn’t optimized for smartphones, so he was unable to apply for the job or even view the site until he found a desktop computer. If companies are going to make it difficult for people to apply for jobs, it’s certainly going to slow the hiring process. Qualified candidates will likely look elsewhere for work.

If that’s not bad enough, how about waiting in line for two hours for a 5 minute interview. That’s what happened to Lewis at another store. He joined a publicly advertised open-call session for retail positions. He was not alone. Along with 50 other people who were waiting in line, Lewis was asked to fill out a six-page application form. Those willing to fill out this application would be granted a five minute interview. Those who didn’t arrive early enough would have to wait hours — at 5 minutes per appointment, the hiring manager would probably see 10 to 12 applicants per hour. Lewis watched as countless disillusioned candidates give up and walk away. Again, if companies are serious about hiring people, they need to streamline their process. However, if they are simply looking to fill positions with any candidate — qualified or otherwise — they can probably fill those easily.

IBM to hire 25,000

Those are low level jobs. Higher paying jobs tend to be technology based jobs.  There are many such jobs. IBM alone, claims to have 25,000 jobs to be filled which they want to fill in the US over the next four years. IBM has indicated that they will train these new employees. The company indicated that is expects to spend $1 billion on training and developing these new employees.

Many of these IBM jobs don’t require college degrees, but the employees will need skills. As many as one-third of future employees won’t need to have a traditional four-year degree. What matters most is that these employees – with jobs such as cloud computing technicians and services delivery specialists – have relevant skills, often obtained through vocational training.

USA Today notes that these skills matter for all of these new positions, even if they are not always acquired in traditional ways. That is why IBM designed a new educational model that many other companies have embraced – six-year public high schools combining a relevant traditional curriculum with necessary skills from community colleges, mentoring and real-world job experience. The first of these schools – called Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-TECH – opened five years ago in Brooklyn. It has achieved graduation rates and successful job placement that rival elite private schools, with 35% of students from the first class graduating one to two years ahead of schedule with both high school diplomas and two-year college degrees.

Six million jobs in Cyber Security by 2019

Forbes suggests that there are also jobs in cyber-security.  A report from Cisco puts the global figure at one million cyber-security job openings. Demand is expected to rise to 6 million globally by 2019, with a projected shortfall of 1.5 million, says Michael Brown, CEO at Symantec, the world’s largest security software vendor.

If you are already in the tech field, then crossing over to security can mean a bump in pay. Cyber-security workers can command an average salary premium of nearly $6,500 per year, or 9% more than other IT workers, according to the Job Market Intelligence: Cybersecurity Jobs 2015 report published by Burning Glass Technologies.

Teaching Kids Programming

Kids should be learning how to program computers. The entire Chicago school system recently made computer programming a required course for high school graduates. Some schools around the country are starting even younger. There are 4th graders learning to program. Brent Kollmansberger is one such teacher. He says, “No one is suggesting that we minimize instruction in writing or history or any other subject area. Teaching our students to be comfortable with technology and how to integrate technology with their assignments will indeed make them more prepared to take advantage of future opportunities. There are many reasons for kids to be given an opportunity to experience computer programming. Future job opportunities is certainly one of them – but it is only one of them.”

Kollamnsberger goes on to say, “I have worked in the computer game industry for 19 years and can attest that skilled programmers are in high demand. A producer friend told me that his company has a standing hire order for programmers – meaning that they continually interview programmer candidates even when they are not currently staffing up a new project. They would rather hire a talented programmer early, than not be able to find one when they need one. When layoffs occur in my industry, programmers are the last ones to go – and the first ones to find a new job. It takes a little longer for designers, artists and producers.”

Unfortunately, may of these computer job opportunities do not extend to rural America. While opportunities exist — there are more than half a million open computing jobs nationwide, according to Code.org, students growing up in the countryside aren’t prepared for these jobs, according to CNN. Rural students are far less likely than their peers in cities and suburbs to gain exposure to rigorous computer science training. These skills have emerged as a fast track to high-paying jobs.

There just aren’t enough qualified teachers in rural areas to train students to take advantage of the vacancies, according to experts. Teachers in these areas have the disadvantage of wearing more hats and teaching a wider range of courses than their counterparts in denser areas. This makes it hard to focus on a subject and stay abreast of the latest developments.

Funding is also a challenge. If budget cuts happen, computer science, which generally isn’t part of a core curriculum, may land on the chopping block.

Kathy Surd, president of the Michigan Mathematics and Science Centers Networks, said computer science hasn’t always survived cost reductions in her state. But in the last two years, Surd said there’s been a push to expand computer science education, which she said levels the playing field for students who want access to good jobs.

If you are looking for a career change, I strongly suggest that you learn how to program. If you are the parent of a child, try to get them to enroll in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. This is where the jobs are today. This is where future jobs will be.

Why STEM Matters

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