Hopes for a future filled with autonomous vehicles, life-changing apps, robots and artificial intelligence won’t be realized without a human workforce that’s prepared to make them a reality.
That’s why Ohio State University plans to integrate technology into its general education curriculum, which will get an overhaul for the first time in more than 30 years. The university also hopes to have 5,000 students complete an Apple coding course in the upcoming school year.
Other efforts include creating a data analytics major, one of the first in the country, with help from IBM, when the company opened a central Ohio center focused on the growing field in 2012.
“It really is a team sport to close this digital literacy gap,” said Bruce McPherson, executive vice president and provost of Ohio State University. “How do we help folks actually learn the power of what they hold in their hand and figure out a way to use it?”
That mindset was one of several topics covered at a Tuesday panel discussion at COSI in Franklinton. The event, TecNation: Columbus, is one of 10 across the country this year hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber Technology Engagement Center. It focuses on the transformation that technology makes possible and how it impacts rural America.
The session McPherson participated in, “Closing the Digital Skills Gap,” explored ways the public and private sector, including K-12 schools and universities, are tackling the technology skills gap nationwide. He was joined by Christie Angel, president and CEO of the Columbus YWCA.
About 50 people attended the half-hour discussion, which was moderated by reporter Andy Chow with Ohio Public Radio’s Statehouse News Bureau.
A 2018 study by the international accounting group Deloitte and the Global Business Coalition for Education estimates about two-thirds of today’s 5-year-olds will work in jobs that don’t exist yet, Chow said.
Employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2016 to 2026, nearly double the average for all other occupations, which is 7%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Such occupations are projected to add about 557,100 new jobs and demand for these workers will likely stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data and information security.
The median annual wage for computer and information technology occupations was $86,320 in May 2018, higher than the median for all other occupations, which is $38,640.
Angel discussed the need to build digital skills among children from all backgrounds, ranging from the youth in her organization’s homeless shelter to kids participating in its after-school programs in central Ohio’s suburbs, which have STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts and math — built into their curriculum.
Many children, especially in Ohio’s rural areas, don’t have access to technology or broadband internet at home. In central Ohio, 17% of households in 49 school districts lack broadband and nearly 10% don’t have a computer, according to an Associated Press analysis published in June.
“We try to give people the tools that they need to navigate life,” Angel said.
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