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CompTIA Wants to Help Teens into Tech Careers

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

In March 2017, CompTIA released a new book from Charles Eaton, the CEO of the CompTIA-sponsored philanthropic organization known as Creating IT Futures. As the parent of a young man who just turned 13 in February, you might say its title captured my immediate interest “How to Launch Your Teen’s Career in Technology: A Parent’s Guide to the T in STEM Education” ($14.99 at Amazon). Its 96 pages are chock-full of photos, diagrams, graphs and other visual elements, and makes a quick read for parents and teens alike.

Full disclosure: at my request, CompTIA sent me both digital and paper copies of the book for this mini-review. Nevertheless, I think most parents will find the book a worthwhile outlay of $15, especially if they’re searching for information and ammunition to stoke a teen’s interest in a technology career.

MORE: CompTIA Certification Guide: Overview and Career Paths

The slogan that appears in huge type on page 6, just ahead of the Table of Contents states the book’s fundamental premise: “People who succeed in technology are problem solvers.” That contents page also lays out the book’s insides and coverage nicely, so I’ll reproduce it verbatim here, along with some choice bits of a synopsis:

10: Welcome to the T in STEM: Technology is the T in “STEM”

Eaton introduces the notion that “Technology is not just a field for the brilliant and computer-obsesses; it’s for anyone who like to see how things work and wants to follow a problem to a logical conclusion.” Eaton speaks from his experience as a parent of four children, currently aged from 7 to 25, and encourages parents to help their kids find a path into the workforce before they graduate from high school, rather than simply pointing them to college, and hoping for the best. Thus, the book seeks to explain what working in tech is like, and to suggest as many paths into working in that field as possible. He’s friendly, positive, helpful and encouraging throughout the book, to parents and teens alike.

13: Bust the Tech Myths: Technology Careers May Not Be What You Imagine

In this section of the book, Eaton explores what’s involved in working in technology. Along the way he presents a series of time-honored tech myths, and then proceeds to bust them. They include these old saws: “Technology is all about coding and math;” “To work in technology, you need a four-year college degree;” “If it’s not at Facebook or Google, it’s not a technology job;” “A tech career means being stuck at a desk;” “Money is the main benefit of a tech job;” “My kids won’t listen to me;” and finally, “Tech jobs are going overseas.” The explosion of these myths and the truths that refute them are engaging and fun to read, and likely to resonate with teens as well.

28: The Tech Job Market: More Than Half a Million Jobs Open Right Now

Eaton bounces between teen-friendly activities to cultivate their interest in tech – stuff like robotics clubs and camps, tech networking in schools and out-of-school organizations, mentoring programs, and more. He adds all kinds of statistics on opportunities, earning potential, prime states and cities for finding technology jobs, and snapshots of a wide variety of jobs and roles in technology careers. The hope is these will motivate teens to get interested, and parents to get excited about opportunities, career longevity and finding fulfilling work. 

45: Is a Tech Career Right for My Child?: Technology Lets You Think, Try, Fail and Succeed

Learning from failure is perhaps more positively understood as learning from trial and error, and Eaton makes the point that this is how everybody learns and some people master the ins and outs of technology. He also provides descriptions of traits or characteristics for people, including kids, who are most likely to succeed in technology, including logical thinking, innovation, tinkering, communication-oriented, project management-oriented, creative and the ability to learn by changing gears and trying out-of-the-box ideas (flexible learning). Eaton also extolls the idea of “getting hands-on” with technology, and explores key characteristics of a “high-quality high school tech program” in this section of the book, including a brief foray into my favorite topic: IT certification.

55: Educational Pathways: Mentors Make All the Difference

Here, Eaton explores the positive and sometimes magical impact that quality mentoring can have on teens seeking to find their ways into life and work. He describes a series of individuals, all of whom benefited from a personal relationship with a teacher or mentor, and all of whom cultivated that relationship to develop an understanding of technology that led to finding meaningful, engaging work in that field. He also explores programs in and out of school that seek to capture teen’s interests in technology and steer them toward technology jobs later in life. Ditto for a variety of college programs, at community and four-year colleges alike. Eaton also explores boot camps, training program, makerspaces and hackerspaces, all of which offer programs or access to teens. His conclusion sums up this section: “Teenagers can learn technology skills through classes, clubs and online” and provides pointers and information to back this up throughout.

76: Where the Jobs Are: Technology is Essential to Business

In this section, Eaton explores the relationship between technology and all kinds of industries, along with the job opportunities presented therein. He tackles unexpected but high-interest industries that include professional sports (where big data plays an increasingly important role), medicine (where automation and data offer exciting possibilities to enhance medical care and everyone’s quality of life), the automobile industry (where data, communications, and automation promise to reshape personal transportation as we know it today), art and special effects (where technology not only reimagines how artists work, but what they work on), agriculture (where monitoring climate and weather is changing the face of farming forever), and finance (where analytics have long ruled the roost, and where “quants” drive markets and opportunities). Throughout, Eaton makes the point that technology success comes from a problem-solving approach and a “can-do” attitude.

92: We Rally for the T in STEM (Opportunities for Every Teen)

Eaton emphasizes the key role that parents play in informing, guiding, and motivating their kids to take up the mantle of working life in adulthood. He observes that patient, careful exposure to information and opportunity will help teens find their way into the adult world, and seek out interesting and fulfilling career opportunities. He emphasizes the essential value and importance of technology in today’s world and in tomorrow’s as well. And finally, he states key “technology FACTS” to help parents and teens understand what it means and how it leads to possible work in the future: “Technology is about logic, not math;” “Technology is about hands-on solutions;” “Technology is about learning from failure;” “Technology is about helping people;” and “Technology is about discovering opportunity.”

This is a useful, informative and helpful piece of work. I feel compelled to give it a ringing endorsement, not just for parents with children they hope to guide to a positive future, but also for people already in the work force facing uncertain futures in industry niches that may be drying up or winding down. For those with the characteristics that Eaton rightly identifies as indicative of potential success in technology (described in the “Is a Tech Career Right for my child? Section), they need not be teens to exploit their abilities to find tech success, even later in life.