09 Sep Back to School for Tech Careers
The secret is out: the tech sector will be the biggest source of job growth in the next decade. Both government and industry agree, as the 2021 Labour Market shows — 140,700 job openings are estimated to become available during that time. So why is a career in the field still such a mystery to young people?
Though this generation is more familiar with social media, gaming and mobile devices than any previous, the idea of how to pursue something along those lines professionally still isn’t as clear cut as traditional vocations, unless of course a child’s parent works in the space. Part of the reason is a gap within the school system.
In response, BC Tech Association and the Vancouver School Board (VSB) partnered up four years ago to launch a pilot program delivering professional development days to K-12 educators — part of its Aspire to Tech umbrella aiming to demystify the subject — covering an overview of the sector, key global trends, types of positions, and the core skills needed to thrive in a career. The sessions typically take place on-site at a relevant place of business, though the format has switched to remote during the pandemic.
“The program really provides an opportunity for K to 12 educators to connect with professionals to observe what is actually happening in the industry right now. Can we go down to the SAP offices in Yaletown and see what does a modern day tech company look like?” says Aaron Davis, VSB director of instruction.
“Because say teachers, secondary specifically here, get a specialty computer science, and decide they want to become an educator in the public system. They get their PDP (Professional Development Program), and then get jobs. So their computer science or technology certification happened at some point before actually entering the workforce, and if they’ve been teaching for 10 years, their experiences, whether from education or if they came from the work environment, are going to be outdated.”
Davis goes on to explain the initiative allows them to understand where things are headed, and the kinds of current problems being solved, to be able to take that knowledge and figure out how to integrate it into the curriculum so students are encouraged develop and master the contemporary skill sets required.
So what are a few of those aforementioned trends covered?
Artificial intelligence and machine learning
Did you know Canada is a world leader in AI and machine learning? The former is the ability of a computer program to think and learn, whereas the latter has to do with the statistics and math models that perform a specific task without explicit instructions, and learn by relying on patterns and inference. Both are closely linked and basically permit the implementation of speech and handwriting recognition, facial recognition, object detection, medical diagnosis, and much more into cutting edge hardware and software.
Many people have already interacted with the above on an entertainment level. The Pokémon Go video game craze of 2016, at the peak drawing over 250 million users, enables players to catch cute monsters appearing overtop of real environments displayed on the screen of a smart phone or tablet. On a professional level, high-fidelity VR may be used to train surgeons around the globe for certain procedures, such as what Vancouver’s own PrecisionOS is doing, eliminating the need to fly doctors at great cost.
Cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin) and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs, popular in the art world) have exploded in popularity in recent years, and both are made possible due to blockchain. Similar to a database, it’s an open distributed ledger capable of recording transactions between parties in an efficient, verifiable and transparent manner. For instance, rather than in a traditional e-commerce scenario where a corporation keeps all your data on a private server somewhere, a blockchain transaction is replicated across a vast public network free from tampering.
Internet of Things
The Internet of things, or IoT, is a system of interrelated sensor-equipped connected devices, which can communicate amongst each other via the cloud, designed to behave intelligently. Most modern households already utilize this phenomenon in the form of smart speakers (i.e. Google Home and Amazon Echo), Wi-Fi plugs, digital door locks, and location tracking, to name a few. Right now, an estimated 15-billion-plus devices are connected to IoT, up from six billion 10 years ago.
These are just a handful exciting examples of what’s trending globally in 2022. Being employed in the industry brings many perks including higher than average salaries; transferable skills applicable to a wide range of organizations; job flexibility; and a fast-paced and engaging work environment. And companies aren’t only looking for programmers, though the role is certainly in high demand. Think engineers, web and app developers, user interface and experience designers, social media marketers, business analysts and project managers, too.
To aid participants bringing their learnings back to the school, BC Tech also provides materials on 30 years of innovation in BC (illustrating milestones like the invention of the walkie-talkie in 1937 or more recently the creation of messaging platform Slack in 2009 boasting 12 million users), as well as tech careers (highlighting individuals explaining why they love what they do and examining the ideal attributes that will help a person succeed).
Those who have taken part indicate the experience is quite the eye opener.
“Brilliant. I learned so much and was astonished by what was happening in the industry, right in our own city! Absolutely fascinating,” said one teacher.
BC Tech CEO Jill Tipping says she is thrilled with the positive response to the program.
“We’ve now provided training to 240 K-12 educators and our approval ratings are off the charts. Teachers really find this program to be a great way to equip them with the knowledge and confidence they need to talk tech in the classroom.”
To learn more and register for upcoming sessions, visit the website.