Today at the 2012 CyberMaryland Conference in Baltimore, the governor spoke about linking public and private resources to create a pipeline of qualified and skilled cyber workers.
And that is key: creating a pipeline of workers and innovators — key players who are prepared to deal with the complex and dynamic solutions cyber calls for.
While the governor spoke of employing higher education to the task of building the pipeline, it was perhaps most poignant to see the work being done by the high school student teams in the MDC3 cyber competition. We need more of this type of student engagement; we need more of a mixture of collaboration and competition among learners in cyber and across industries.
And we need to start looking at ways to go beyond the traditional route of higher ed preparedness. We need to look at the opportunities available to get high school graduates directly in the field. Because increasingly for many, the skyrocketing costs of college and student loan debt suggest a future of diminishing returns; and increasingly industry is finding itself without the pool of skilled workers it needs.
What we need is a new apprentice model for the information age.
Cyber is an industry ripe for the kind of learning that comes out of an apprentice system; and that blend of student competition and apprenticeship learning is exactly what is at the core of DHF’s STEM League. If we want to build the pipeline, we need to present our case across the K-12 curriculum. Because by the time a student is of college age, it is often already too late.
And that’s at the center of the STEM problem in the U.S. — we fail to create meaningful and nurturing STEM mentorships and ongoing and consistent elements of engagement. Instead we focus on test scores.
We teach kids — starting at the earliest levels — that smart kids do well on math tests.
And we miss the opportunity to inspire passion.
It’s passion that produces innovation, not math scores.
Gov. O’Malley, as well as Senator Barbara Mikulski, took some time to speak with DHF’s EdTech Link Fellows — there at the CyberMaryland Conference representing the inner city public school teachers who are on the frontline of any initiative to stimulate workforce development. We would like to see our leaders work with us to spark that passion in students; and we are looking forward to partnering with them to drive a new era of tech industry and innovation through education.
It is essential that we can link educators and technologists in a way that both fills the need in industry while also presenting students with new options and ways of thinking about themselves. But to get there, it is important to reformulate how we define career pathways and to link curriculum in the schools with the relevant skills and realities of a post-industrial landscape. It is important to take this moment to shape the future.