Geeks of the world unite and get Chic

// October 2nd, 2007 // IT Professionalism, The Future of IT

Can “Geek Chic” help reverse the IT staffing shortage? This is an interesting article I read at www.ITBusinessEdge.com about the shortage of IT staff and how we aren’t doing enough to attract High School and College kids to follow a technical track. Athough it touches on the real issue of shortage of qualified staff, it’s more an article no how the Geek image of IT is partly to blame for not attracting young folks. It also goes on to say how people are trying to change that image, and that the TV Networks are now making Nerds and Geeks primetime stars with shows like “Chuck“.

From my perspective, turning IT types into caricatures will only help to reinforce the negative stereotype. It may bring it to more households, but me thinks very few young adults are saying to themselves, I want to be a Geek when I grow up. I don’t think the answer is to make Geek more Chic, but to attack the Stereotype (I haven’t used a pocket protector in years!!) head-on. If you look at almost any profession, and you will find a subset of profession specific “Geeks”, but they don’t define the profession. IT professionals cross the entire political, ethnic, sexual orentation and religious (and non-religious) spectrum.

That’s why I applaud the efforts of the British¬† e-Skills UK for their Revitalize IT initiative to promote IT professionalism and understand what impression kids really have of IT. Is there a similar initiative in the US or Canada? If anyone knows, please comment and let us know. I know there are groups like CIPS in Canada that do a lot to promote professionalism, and I know many companies have campaigns to market the IT profession to University grads, but who is educating the kids in high school, before they make their past secondary decisions?

So, let’s make this a call to all IT professionals out there to help kill the Geek stereotype and promote it to our young¬† folk. If you don’t believe there is a crisis ahead, check out this article that shows enrollment in Computer Science programs is 39% lower than in 2000. Couple that with the number of Baby Boomer who will be retiring in the next 5-10 years, and you’ve got a big void coming. The risk is economic and has significant implications to whether North America will maintain it’s forefront status in Technological innovation. I’m sure there are many who thing it;’s already too late, but I say better late than never.

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