It’s not only because I am a frequent Amazon shopper and loyal Amazon Prime Member that I was excited about the possibility of the Amazon headquarters relocating to Charlotte, NC. I was excited because it would create thousands of jobs, attract other businesses and industries to our area, boost our economy, and bring new people to the area. Amazon, in Charlotte, NC, would lead to growth with a capital G!
I was rather disappointed to hear that Amazon had decided against Charlotte. I really thought #cltisprime! (This was the hashtag Charlotteans used when posting on social media about the benefits Charlotte.) I was astonished to read in the Charlotte Observer one of the reasons why Amazon stakeholders chose to concentrate their search elsewhere. “The city’s pool of tech talent is lacking compared to other markets.”
I cannot rattle them off, but I’ve heard stats on the number of tech jobs to come in the next 10, 20, or 30 years. I’ve heard that many of the jobs of tomorrow haven’t yet been created. In his final presidential interview, (Jan. 2017) Obama said, “Automation is relentless and it’s going to accelerate,” In a 2015 interview he said, "When these tech jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for the workers, but it’s also a missed opportunity for your city, your community, your county, your state, and our nation.” One year later, we find that, in fact, CLT is not prime.
For those who are unaware, Charlotte sits on the border of the Carolinas. Amazon’s decision is just as much an indication of waning tech skills in NC as it is in SC. As the school district Science Instructional Specialist for a neighboring school district, this is alarming. Multiple questions come to mind as I believe Science classes are where tech skills would be initiated. How do we define tech skills? Are we teaching tech skills?
How do we define "tech skills?"
After a bit of online searching, I've found a most simplified definition from Allison Doyle. "Technical skills are the abilities and knowledge to perform specific tasks. They are practical, and often relate to mechanical, information technology, mathematical, or scientific tasks." We often speak of soft skills as the ability to work well with a group, perseverance, time management, etc. The other set of skills, the hard skills, are the technical skills. The article goes on to list the Top 5 Technical Skills as follows:
How are tech skills taught?
As I study this list, and the breakdown of these lists, found in the actual article, it occurs to me that these skills must be taught by experience. Students cannot become skilled at data analysis, by watching videos about data analysis. They must, frequently, be given sets of data to analyze, they must collect and analyze their own data. Coding is the very specific language of computers. It is a language that speaks in terms of specific directions without ambiguity. In a sense, coding and programming are communication skills. There are several different free programs to teach coding, specifically, such as code.org, but general computer interaction can assist with these skills. Project management would best be taught through the assignment of projects. Projects must go beyond reformatting the class notes into a Powerpoint. There must be some unknowns students are to discover along the way. Within the realm of Project Management are multiple soft skills to be acquired--time management, division of labor, etc. Social media experience, as a technical skill, surprised me. Thinking more about it, I realize that Social media is about marketing, networking, and the ability to use multiple platforms. These skills also speak to one's ability to adapt, as social media frequently undergoes change. Finally, Technical Writing is a tech skill. Documentation, research, client relations, sending appropriate emails are examples of tasks that teach technical writing. Greater emphasis on technical reading, may also help technical writing skills to develop. It surprised me, as a high school teacher, how many students had never read a nonfictional book. They were familiar with fiction, where there wed characters and a plot, but reading for information was new.
How does a company analyze community’s tech skills?
Several possibilities are listed below.
Where do we go from here?
I cannot think of a better company to move into our area, but I am sure there are others who are (or were) considering placing their headquarters here. We must, without a doubt, emphasize technical know-how in our schools! Earlier I stated that Science classes should initiate this effort, but when we examine the list in its entirety, tech skills acquisition is a culmination of our entire education program.
Data analysis is frequently associated with Science, but it is often first taught in Math. Coding and Programming are about the language of computers. Students use computers in every subject. In addition to using the hardware, they need to be taught about some of the background occurrences and troubleshooting. While, I love a Science project, there are opportunities for students to develop projects for History Day, and other classroom or school-based assignments. Any teacher can post and require students to respond to a class discussion topic in a social-type platform. Parameters can be set as to length, use of professional grammar, use of examples, etc. There are new English-Language Arts guidelines about reading nonfictional text, and text dependent analysis. All teachers need to be aware of these guidelines and emphasize these skills within their content.
Education is not for the pure sake of education. We educate our children with the intention that someday their knowledge and skills will lead to their independence. If this truly is our intention, we must educate them in a manner that will qualify them for the jobs that will be available. Tech skills are needed ASAP.
Because Science Education Matters,
Kimberly G. Massey - M.Ed., NBCT
Science Instructional Specialist
Rock Hill Schools of York County, SC
1) Doyle, A. (n.d.). List of Technical Skills for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews. Retrieved February 4, 2018, from https://www.thebalance.com/technical-skills-list-2063775
2) Johnson, E. (2017, January 21). Barack Obama says Democrats need to get smarter about tech taking jobs. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from https://www.recode.net/2017/1/21/14346508/barack-obama-tech-jobs-automation-labor-pod-save-america-transcript
3) Peralta, K. (n.d.). Here's why Amazon says Charlotte didn't make its HQ2 shortlist. Retrieved January 24, 2018, from http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article196075049.html
Copyright 2018 Kimberly G. Massey
Kimberly G. Massey
Science Instructional Specialist, Rock Hill Schools of York County
The views/opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Rock Hill Schools of York County SC.
Call for Papers
If you believe Science Education Matters, and you have something you would like to share as a blog post, papers are being accepted. Your post should be between 600 and 1500 words. The topic should be relevant to Science educators and those who care about Science education, and the future. The topic should be broad, yet specific examples should be explored in the post. Any references should be cited at the bottom in APA style and the websites should be hyperlinked within the post. Photos owned by the author are also a great addition. Please email Kimberly G. Massey to share your topic idea BEFORE preparing your post.