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August 9, 2016

Introducing NextUp: CompTIA’s new initiative to inspire future technologists

CharlesAtChannelConIn his keynote address at CompTIA’s ChannelCon 2016 conference, CEO Todd Thibodeaux presented this challenge to hundreds of IT executives: How can our industry attract the best and brightest for the next generation workforce?

He began with an increasingly familiar story: The IT industry is currently facing a 15 percent shortage of skilled workers, and as Baby Boomers retire over the next several years, that gap will only grow wider. Meanwhile, IT has struggled to remain among the top ten most desirable industries and to maintain relevance in an environment in which freelancing and entrepreneurship are capturing high school and college graduates’ desire for flexibility and passion-driven work.

Thibodeaux went on to share what CompTIA has been doing over the last few months to address this challenge. CompTIA partnered with the global design firm IDEO and tasked them with figuring out how we encourage kids ages 14-18 to pursue a career in IT.

The IDEO team—which included an anthropologist, an educational researcher, and software and interactive designers—started by going directly to the source. They sent researchers to several cities to speak with kids, parents, guidance counselors and teachers.

Thibodeaux explained how they learned that, in general, kids in middle school and early high school are in a very aspirational phase when it comes to thinking about their futures. In short, they’re dreamers. They aren’t yet thinking about the practicalities of a career, money or security. Their world has endless possibilities. Along with that discovery emerged these five key lessons:
  1. The college dream is powerful: It is a dream for both students and parents, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, or ethnicity.
  2. High school curriculum has to be college prep: This means that programs that focus on hands-on trades or hardware-focused tech skills are minimized or eliminated from high school curriculum because they aren’t perceived as preparing kids for college.
  3. There is no silver bullet: There is no single source of information or website that will draw kids to tech. Even if there were, it would be competing with countless other sites from other industries.
  4. Kids are passion-driven: They have bought into the “follow your passion” message.
  5. Role models rule: The most important lesson we’ve learned through the research is the importance of role models in the process of choosing a career.
NextUp_LogoCEO of the Creating IT Futures Foundation Charles Eaton joined Thibodeaux to introduce CompTIA’s new initiative that incorporates the lessons of IDEO’s research and focuses on influencing the dreamers—NextUp.

Eaton explained that NextUp will develop a series of programs in conjunction with partners like Spark and TechGirlz that will involve CompTIA alumni as mentors and role models. The goal of these programs is to introduce kids to the many possibilities of technology. “IT is more than just coding and the industry needs workers in a wide range of IT jobs,” Eaton said. “We need to create a generation of technologists who understand how technology can be applied to a variety of businesses and professional purposes.”

For CompTIA members, this is an opportunity to share their passion for tech by engaging with young people as mentors and share with those young people what it is about technology that excites them. In Thibodeaux’s words, “We’re not doing a good job of telling kids why we love what we do. They want to understand not what you do, but why you love what you do.”

More details about NextUp will be coming soon. Are you interested in helping us inspire the next generation? Keep in touch with our news about NextUp and how you can get involved as our programs evolve by signing up for our monthly Star Power newsletter, which discusses how to create better on-ramps to IT careers.