Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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July 22, 2014

Understanding what makes youth think…about future IT careers

Despite the recent recession and associated unemployment, the IT industry struggles to fill job vacancies because of a continuing shortage of qualified applicants.

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

So if jobs are available — really good jobs, mind you — why don’t more youths consider IT as a career option, especially youths for whom college might be a challenge? And what can the IT industry do to successfully lure more young people into pursuing tech careers?

The Creating IT Futures Foundation — the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, a non-profit trade organization representing the interests of IT professionals and companies — recently worked to find out.

Partnering with Versta Research and Doyle Research, the foundation commissioned qualitative research designed to address the following questions:
  • How do urban African-American and Hispanic/Latino teens think about and plan for their futures?
  • 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 there 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, and now we are interested in finding ways to share the information so that tech career pathways can become more accessible to this important demographic.”

The student 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. We surveyed 325 parents of youths who met these same criteria. (The surveys were fielded independently, so it is unlikely that teens and parents are related.)

Here’s what we found:
  • 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 we asked any questions about IT, we presented 60 career options to the teens. Their top 10 picks included three IT careers.
  • Four out of 10 teens chose at least one technology career among their top potential interests.
  • Most have 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.
Over the next several months, the Creating IT Futures Foundation will share additional takeaways from this research, along with some insight into what the findings might mean for the IT industry.