For the U.S. innovation economy to remain globally competitive there must be open and ongoing dialogue and between K-12 educators and industry professionals.
That was the underlying theme of honorCode’s Future Workforce Conference that took place last month at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. Presented by honorCode, the 2-day symposium was an unprecedented opportunity for STEAM educators and business community leaders to establish new partnerships across the workforce-education gap.
The inaugural event marked a watershed moment for key stakeholders in the South to come to the table to discuss the educational needs of the youth, and the economic needs of the workforce.
“The purpose of the Future Workforce Conference is to get our schools, policy folks, our local business community and our educators in one place so that they can know each other, see each other and know that they’re not alone in this work of diversifying our future workforce pipelines and also getting the research to schools so that they can be supportive in that role,” said Jeffrey Martín, President and CEO of honorCode.
Founded in 2015 by Martín and Dylan Stone-Miller, Atlanta-based honorCode provides training, curriculum, and connection to industry professionals for educators to bring computer science and social-emotional learning into the K12 classroom. To date, the nonprofit has trained over 60 teachers and impacted over 3000 students in the Atlanta area.
Filmed and Edited by Kennedy Crenshaw
In Georgia, the education system is eyeing a more holistic approach, incorporating computer science into every subject of the K-12 curriculum, said Bryan Cox, Computer Science Specialist for the Georgia Department of Education.
“The biggest thing that we’re doing right now is moving computer science from only being an elective in a Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) department, to being a consistent and holistic part of the education system under its own discipline, K-12,” said Cox.
Cox spoke on a panel along with Dr. Lauren Margulieux, Assistant Professor, Learning Technologies at Georgia State University; Marcellus Haynes, Senior Developer at AgileThought and founder of Technologists of Color; and Stan Hoptroff, Vice President, Chief Technology Officer; and Director of IT at North American Electrical Reliability Corporation.
Each representing different public and private organizations, they all agreed that the skills also needed to be successful in the workforce were soft skills: integrity, analytic mindset, resilience, and creativity.
The group also addressed rebuffing stereotypes and depicting the industry with a diversified lens.
Martín, who moderated the panel, stated that the industry is much more robust than people, particularly young people, think. There are also opportunities for User Experience Design (UX) and Project Management.
“I think it’s super important, and after being a teacher for five years, I taught high school and I loved doing that, I think that it’s super important for our students and our teachers to understand people, people who are making whatever the thing that you’re getting, the process, what does it take to build that, and also the product,” Martín told UrbanGeekz.
“When you think about all of the industries and all of the businesses, they have a people, process, and a product and the more that we are able to show our students that design matters, the more that we are able to say, like, ‘yes, you have really great communication skills are going to benefit you in the long run.’ That’s what we’re trying to unpack, are some of the simple first steps in seeing this change that we want to see.”
It’s not just showing kids that the skills they possess can get them a unique place in the tech workforce, it’s also showing them that these methods can solve their personal and community problems, added Cox.
“Researchers have known for a long time that if you couch their learning in problems in their community, then learning becomes more impactful,” he said. “So, if you give them projects that have something to do with their life, with their personal challenges, with challenges their family faces or challenges that their community face, and you show them that this learning, this education, this STEM, this computer science can be tools to one, relieve their economic issue, solve their water issue, their energy issue, whatever their actual problems are, whether there’s alcoholism or drugs or whatever. If you show them that this thing that their learning can be a tool to solve those problems, then they are all ears.”
Consequently, the conference demonstrated that there are ample avenues for graduates of the future to see themselves and be successful. But first, getting the education system on one accord, strengthening support for teachers and investing in the tools for them to get there.
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