Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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October 28, 2014

IT industry to minority youths: Want an upwardly mobile career? Consider IT

In a recent in-depth study, nearly all of the minority teenagers surveyed said they want a career — not just a job. They also want to learn new things all the time.

To which the IT industry would respond, that sounds great! We can offer just that; come pursue a career with us.

If only it was that simple.

The Creating IT Futures Foundation — the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, a non-profit trade organization representing IT professionals and companies — recently commissioned research examining how the IT industry might attract more young people into the field.

The research is timely because despite the recent recession and associated unemployment, the IT industry struggles to fill job vacancies. There simply are not enough qualified applicants.

Moreover, this trend is expected to continue. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that growth in IT positions will significantly outpace job growth in other fields. These IT positions promise family-sustaining wages and upwardly mobile career paths.

So if careers — not just jobs — are available, why don’t more youths consider IT, especially those youths for whom college isn’t necessarily an option? And what can the IT industry do to encourage more young people into pursuing tech careers?

Partnering with Versta Research and Doyle Research, the Creating IT Futures Foundation commissioned qualitative research to address the following questions:
  • How do urban African-American and Hispanic/Latino teens think about college and a future career? 
  • How much interest and awareness is there for careers in IT? 
  • What are drivers and barriers to interest in IT, and what kinds of programming or outreach would work best? 
  • What are the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of parents, and what is their role in teen career decision-making? 
“We wanted to get inside the heads of students and parents to find out exactly what is driving career thinking among urban youth,” said Charles Eaton, CEO of the Creating IT Futures Foundation. “We learned a lot.”

The survey included 326 teens who were in the 11th or 12th grade in a public school, earned Bs and Cs for grades, had never been expelled, and lived in an urban area and in a household earning $65,000 annually or less. The foundation also surveyed parents to better understand their hopes and expectations for their teens. (The surveys were fielded independently, so it is unlikely that teens and parents are related.)

Some of the key findings included:
  • Nearly all teens say they want a career, not just a job, and that they want to be learning new things all the time. 
  • Before asking any questions about IT, researchers presented 60 career options to teens. The youths’ top 10 picks included three IT careers. 
  • Four out of 10 teens chose at least one IT career among their top potential interests. 
  • Most teens expressed positive perceptions of IT, associating it with good pay, helping people and interesting work. 
  • Almost 90 percent of teens feel they could succeed in an IT career. 
Along with these positive findings, the research also identified some potential stumbling blocks:
  • Most teens — and parents — are not certain what “IT” means and most do not know someone with an IT job. 
  • Nearly all think IT requires strong math and science skills. 
  • More than half of the teens — and one-third of parents — believe an IT career requires a four-year college degree. 
The Creating IT Futures Foundation plans to share the research online with organizations that promote tech careers to youths and their parents, Eaton said.

“Understanding the big-picture goals of young people is essential if we are to communicate the value of tech careers in ways that resonate with them and their primary influencers: their parents,” he said.