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Stopping the Technology Brain Drain

Paul M. Ingevaldson | September 13, 2010 | Computerworld

As we look ahead to 2011, it’s a good time to think again about the potential shortage of qualified IT people due to excessive outsourcing of IT jobs to India, China and elsewhere . This situation is akin to the brain drain that occurred during World War II, when eminent scientists emigrated from Europe to the U.S.

The two main factors contributing to this developing shortage are a lack of focus on technology careers in the U.S., beginning in high school, and the uncertainties of the domestic job market.

First, let’s look at education. Some people suggest that kids today aren’t willing to take on the difficult subject matter that’s contained in IT courses. Poppycock. Older generations always seem ready to label youngsters as lazy, self-absorbed and unwilling to work hard. Personally, I think every succeeding generation is smarter, more intelligent and more enthusiastic than the one before it. A better explanation is that our high schools have not kept pace with the emerging IT world .

This situation is caused by several factors. In math and science classrooms, we still teach biology, chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry and calculus as the core courses — the same courses I took in the early ’60s. True, some schools make IT courses available, but they are electives. The renowned Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy , for example, offers six elective courses in IT-related subjects. Happily, it is considering making one IT semester mandatory. In St. Charles, Ill., the subject of IT courses is being discussed in the district’s 21st-century skills project. But few others seem ready to take that step.

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