Survey by Creating IT Futures Foundation Examines Teen Views of Tech Careers
March 3, 2015, Downers Grove, Ill. — In its Survey of Teen Views on Tech Careers, IT Futures Labs, a signature initiative of the Creating IT Futures Foundation, researched how low- to middle-income urban African American and Hispanic teens, as well as parents, regard information technology (IT) jobs, college and future careers.
Three types of jobs in information technology – software programmer, computer technician and computer design engineer – ranked in the top ten of teens’ career interests from among 60 career categories, from business and law to music and sports. The teens surveyed also believed that with hard work and/or innate talent, they could be successful in IT careers. This new research will help parents and educators understand how to inform and motivate youth to choose a path toward well-paying tech careers.
“Constrained by limited resources, schools and after-school programs in urban areas often focus attention on the kids at risk of dropping out of high school or the high academic achievers who are on a four-year college path. The academically average students are often left to find their own way. Our research study looks at these kids in the middle, whom we know can achieve solid career success in the practical, hands-on world of IT given the right motivation and opportunities,” said Charles Eaton, CEO, Creating IT Futures Foundation. “We found that urban minority teens have a strong affinity for technology and a desire to work directly with technology in a career.”
The surveyed teens were all B and C students in good standing in their junior or senior year of high school. The teens overwhelmingly indicated college was a high priority and that they wanted to feel connected to a career—not just punch a clock. “Having a job I love” was ranked number one by teens in terms of goals to accomplish over the next decade.
Plus, altruistic aspirations such as contributing money or housing to parents or “helping other people” tended to rank just as high as or even higher with the teens than, “having a lot of money,” “owning my own home,” or “moving into a better neighborhood.” Motivational career messaging targeted at urban minority teens may miss this altruism angle.
IT Career Myths
In terms of advice on college and careers, teens reportedly rely on parents 2-to-1 over any other source, according to the survey. But myths about the necessity of four-year degrees and needing to be a whiz in math and science still persist in the minds of teens and parents alike.
“Parents should recognize and capitalize on their strong influence with their teenagers,” said Eric Larson, director, IT Futures Labs, Creating IT Futures Foundation. “Don’t assume that your messages about college and careers are getting through. Parents intentionally need to set aside more time to discuss careers with their kids. They also need to learn more about tech careers and spot the myths that get in the way of their students becoming technologists.”
The Creating IT Futures Foundation, CompTIA and other IT organizations have long maintained that a four-year degree, while potentially beneficial in the long run, is not the only way to get started in an IT career. A student also doesn’t have to be a top achiever in math and science to be successful in IT. Instead, Creating IT Futures recommends that teens and parents explore IT training options at two-year-degree institutions and non-profit training programs as well as on-the-job training opportunities with local employers. Teens also should become familiar with IT certifications offered by CompTIA, Cisco, Microsoft and other certifying bodies.
Based on the survey results, Creating IT Futures recommends that educators and school counselors:
1. Rethink their marketing of tech careers to teens.
2. Develop and promote hands-on tech programs.
3. Help parents provide career guidance.
4. Clarify what IT means so that teens understand the diverse options available in technology.
Creating IT Futures conducted qualitative, ethnographic research in 2013 among a limited number of Chicago area teens and parents. That ethnographic research helped inform the questions for a follow-up 2014 quantitative national survey of more than 300 eleventh- and twelfth-graders and an equivalent number of adults who parent at least one eleventh- or twelfth-grader.
The full survey is available at http://www.creatingitfutures.org/download-teen-whitepaper. A PowerPoint summarizing the survey is available at http://www.slideshare.net/comptia/teen-views-on-tech-careers-45240206.
About the Creating IT Futures Foundation
As the philanthropic arm of CompTIA, the Creating IT Futures Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charity with the mission of helping populations under-represented in the information technology industry and individuals who are lacking in opportunity to prepare for, secure and be successful in IT careers. IT Futures Labs researches, develops, tests and launches innovative non-profit job training programs tailored for the IT sector. Learn more at CreatingITFutures.org.