By Stephanie Guthrie, CareerMash
Today’s kids are the most tech-savvy generation ever yet ironically, they still hold outdated perceptions that tech careers are dull and nerdy. Cisco Canada employees, who are so not dull or nerdy, are helping change these perceptions one classroom at a time.
How, you ask? Cisco Canada employees volunteer as Role Models and panelists in an educational initiative called CareerMash which is spreading the word among Canadian high school students, educators and parents that tech careers are cool, creative, high paying and in demand. Launched in mid-2011, CareerMash organizes student events and Role Model visits to Toronto region high schools while providing tech career resources through its website – careermash.ca.
We’re thrilled to work with Cisco Canada, and here’s why. If we don’t turn kids onto tech careers in high school – before they make their post-secondary program choices – we will face an information and communications technology (ICT) skills shortage that could stall economic growth, and prevent companies like Cisco from hiring the skilled employees they need, across Canada.
Despite economic slowdowns and offshoring of jobs, Canada’s ICT professional workforce grew from 650,000 to 800,000 over the past 10 years, but that’s not enough to meet the demand. The Conference Board of Canada predicts the shortage of skilled workers across our economy will reach one million by 2020, and that 40 per cent of all new jobs will be in skilled trades and technologies.
Obviously, meeting the national demand for ICT skills has many inter-related parts across government, industry and education. But with the CareerMash website and educational programs, we’re doing our part to breakdown the outdated stigma of tech careers and get kids excited about the endless possibilities of these careers.
Our website emphasizes the many ways today’s tech careers ‘mash up’ cool technologies to bring innovation to so many sectors such as the environment, health care, entertainment, retail, finance and more. It does this through colourful, student-oriented content like profiles of cool tech careers and ‘Real People’ profiles of professionals like Cisco Canada employees Martha Garriock and Vanessa Beauparlant.
Meanwhile, our Role Models visit Greater Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo region high schools to speak directly with high school students – giving them a firsthand account of what to expect (and not-to-expect) in a technology career. Our Role Models reached more than 4,000 students in 2011 and in 2012 we are sending 75 Role Models into 46 high school classrooms to share their stories.
As well as the contributions of its employee volunteers, Cisco Canada is a founding member of CareerMash’s parent organization the Canadian Coalition for Tomorrow’s ICT Skills (CCICT). Formed in 2007, CCICT is an industry-led coalition of employers, universities and industry organizations that exists to help make Canada a global leader in the 21st century knowledge economy. And, one of the important issues to overcome in making this happen, is ensuring more young people choose tech-related post-secondary programs so Canadian graduates have the skills to match industry needs.
With Cisco’s long-term support of CCICT and its employee participation in CareerMash, we know first-hand that they are making an impact that counts. We’re one of the many untold success stories of how companies like Cisco help organizations like ours make a difference.
Stephanie Guthrie is Manager of Community Outreach for CareerMash. She plans and coordinates the offline CareerMash activities like school visits from tech Role Models and major events that bring students, educators, and tech professionals together.