Lightbulb Moments: Working Together with Education to Fill Indy’s Tech Pipeline
The Pike High School freshman cafeteria last Thursday, November 9, 2017, was noisy. The air was filled with buzz of poignant discussions, probing questions and the start of friendships forming. Any other day those would not be newsworthy activities. What makes this particular Thursday so unique was who was filling the cafeteria chairs.
Sixteen of Indy’s top tech leaders were forming friendships and sharing “light bulb moments” with nearly 60 teachers, counselors and administrators from Pike Township as part of the third Teacher TechConnect event. Each Teacher TechConnect event has a theme and this month showcased the broad array of careers in digital marketing in Indianapolis.
Pike High School Art Department Chair Myron Cochran was one of the attendees who had a lightbulb moment. He was able to learn more about the career opportunities he can direct his students toward in the future.
“I didn’t even know about careers in digital marketing until I came to this event,” explained Cochran.
Cochran described a current senior student who designs signs for the district and is joining the National Guard. The student was unsure of his future career opportunities. After Thursday’s Teacher TechConnect event, however, Cochran explains he looks forward to bringing the knowledge into his classroom and sharing with the students what a career as a digital designer looks like as well as all of the other career options in the fast-growing local tech job market for students who are interested in art.
Indy’s technology sector continues to focus on filling pipeline for the ever-expanding list of tech jobs coming to the area. With so many teachers unaware of the breadth of skills needed in the tech industry and number of different jobs available both today and in the future, students aren’t getting exposed to all of their options. Teachers report the tech industry changes so fast that they have trouble keeping up with all of the different options available.
BLASTmedia President Lindsey Groepper gave the keynote at Thursday’s event and explained to attendees, “Putting a box around tech jobs by saying they all involve coding leaves so many jobs out of the discussion.”
Teacher TechConnect events quite literally put industry and education at the table together to collaborate. Educators sit at roundtables with tech leaders to hear what skills are valued and what careers their students can aspire to. Tech leaders can understand explicitly where educators are constrained, what is being taught in classrooms and where any gaps exist with their future workforce needs.
More than one-time information sharing, Teacher TechConnect events facilitate relationship building between tech leaders and teachers, ultimately impacting the students. To-date, more than 30 CIOs, CTOs, Presidents and Vice-Presidents, Partners and other technology leaders have participated in at least one of the three Teacher TechConnect events.
Teachers walk out of the events with contact information they gather from the tech leaders, many of whom have already come back to visit Pike classrooms to layer insight on to specific topics. Tech leaders walk out of the events with a better understanding of what’s being taught in the classroom and what they need to do to help bridge the gap from their side to fill the jobs they have open today and in the future.
Teacher TechConnect events began in Fall 2016 as a collaboration between Pike High School Youth CareerConnect Program’s Workforce Liaison Jeanette Craw, Bluelock Sales Executive Pat Spencer and Bluelock Product Manager Diana Nolting. Craw shared with Spencer and Nolting that while Pike’s students have ample opportunities to learn coding, robotics and other technical skills, the teachers were having trouble keeping up with the industry and what opportunities exist outside of “traditional” coding jobs, which meant they were having trouble helping students picture what their future careers could look like.
To drive the event’s success Pike YCC brought the full backing and support of their district leadership and administration and Bluelock partnered with central Indiana tech industry heavy hitters Angie’s List, TechPoint Foundation for Youth and Nextech to make the event successful. Teachers attending the event reported 100% satisfaction on the surveys, all indicating they would attend another event in the future.
About the Author
Diana Nolting is product manager at Bluelock, a provider of Disaster Recovery-as-a-Service (DRaaS) for complex environments and sensitive data. She manages the entire product lifecycle of Bluelock’s comprehensive portfolio of products and services. Diana is responsible for informing the strategic, long-term vision of Bluelock’s products as well as ensuring a successful client experience throughout the entire product lifecycle, from ideation through ongoing operations through end-of-life. This includes maintaining a relationship with the market, advocating for and integrating their needs into existing products, and developing new products and services to satisfy new demands and opportunities.