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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy 7 Longer-Term Strategies for Increasing the Supply of Qualified Labor: Training and Education This chapter examines two groups of strategies for increasing the supply of IT workers in the United States (A third class of strategy, the use of more foreign workers domestically and abroad, is discussed in Chapter 5.) More precisely, these are strategies for facilitating an expansion in supply.1 The first group includes various forms of “formal” education, ranging from K-12 through higher education. Most of these are long-term strategies, which take anywhere from 2 to 20 years to be effective. However, some educational programs in community colleges, proprietary schools, and vendor-oriented courses can produce results in a few months or less. The second group, which overlaps to some extent with the first, comprises worker training. 7.1 THE ROLE OF FORMAL EDUCATION Any systemic approach to relieving tightness in IT labor markets must include education and training for a variety of IT occupations. As noted in Chapter 2, IT career pathways are highly variable. A few individuals enter the IT workforce directly from high school, or with minimal additional training such as preparation for vendor certification. More com- 1 As noted in Chapter 5, any increase in the number of qualified workers has the effect of dampening wage growth. But from an overall national perspective, it is less controversial politically for a U.S. worker who loses a job (for example) to lose it to another U.S. worker than for him or her to lose it to a foreign worker.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy monly, individuals acquire both technical and foundation skills by completing an associate's degree at a community or technical college. The majority of Category 1 workers complete at least a bachelor' s degree before beginning their IT careers. Other routes include the military, government-funded worker training or “upskilling” programs, targeted programs for special populations, corporate education, and local initiatives (e.g., industry-educational consortia). Career paths in the IT field can be highly fluid. Individuals can start out as programmers and subsequently become systems analysts or integrators, database developers, or even Web site designers. Some enter IT from seemingly unrelated occupations or professions. Creativity and innovation, two skills often found in people trained in the arts, are highly transferable to software development. Artistic design and spatial abilities can often transfer from architecture or commercial art or drafting to Web page design. Theatre majors can be found leading software development teams. Nevertheless, certain transition paths within IT are highly unlikely because the “before ” work is too different from the “after” work (a point discussed in Section 7.2, “Training IT Workers”). 7.1.1 Secondary Education As noted in Chapter 3, large increases in demand are forecast for Category 1 IT workers, who generally require high levels of formal education. It is axiomatic that preparation for such occupations involves adequate education, the first step of which is K-12 education that prepares students for college-level study of computer science, electrical engineering, and other IT-related fields. In addition to providing specific preparation for college-level study, the process of studying science and mathematics may help young people to develop foundational or core IT skills and abilities (discussed in Chapter 2) that they can take directly into certain Category 2 jobs or build upon in the course of additional study of IT-related topics. In the discussion below, the committee focuses on secondary mathematics and science education, rather than primary or middle school education. The reason is that it appears to be at this level that the “average ” mathematics and science education in the United States is particularly weak (Box 7.1), although reform efforts have been under way at every level for at least a decade.2 2 For example, in 1989 the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics published the first mathematics standards, Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics (Reston, Va.: NCTM), and the National Research Council released Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press). In response to a request from the National Science Teachers Association, the National Research Council convened a committee of experts, leading to the publication in 1996 of National Science Education Standards (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press).
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy BOX 7.1 Educational Achievement of U.S. K-12 Students One indicator of the science and mathematics achievement of K-12 students in the United States is found in the results of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), conducted in 1995 and 1996.1 Overall, on this international assessment, U.S. students scored slightly above the international average in science and slightly below the average in mathematics. However, the results for 17-year-olds —those closest to entering the IT workforce—were worse than those of the younger students.2 In both mathematics and science, the U.S. 17-year-olds scored below the international average, and among the lowest, of the 21 countries participating. Overall, the performance of U.S. high school seniors in mathematics has been near the bottom in international comparisons over the past 30 years. Within the smaller group of 16 countries that participated in assessments of physics and advanced mathematics, the scores of U.S. 17-year-olds were among the lowest. Other measures of the science and mathematics knowledge of U.S. students come from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, a nationally representative testing program involving students in grades 4, 8, and 12. The most recent NAEP results, from 1999, indicated that only a small fraction of students at each grade level were “proficient” in mathematics and science. 3 Like the TIMSS results, the NAEP results suggested that the performance of 12th graders in science and mathematics was lower than that of younger students. It is noteworthy, however, that a National Research Council committee found problems with the procedures used for standard setting and defining the cutoff between NAEP scores deemed “basic” and those that represent “proficient” performance.4 This committee's report suggested that the cutoff had been set too high, yielding results “that do not appear to be reasonable relative to numerous other external comparisons.”5 Although weak as an absolute measure of the science and mathematics achievement of U.S. students at any one point in time, NAEP scores can usefully reveal trends. Used in this way, NAEP results from 1990, 1992, 1996, and 1999 indicate that student achievement in mathematics increased significantly over that time period. The science and mathematics achievement of younger U.S. students appears greater than that of older students. In contrast to the weak performance of high school seniors in the TIMSS, U.S. fourth graders scored above the international average in both mathematics and science, and their science performance was second highest among the 26 countries participating.6 However, U.S. eighth graders' performance in both mathematics and science was squarely in the middle among the 25 countries participating. What are the implications for the future IT workforce when younger U.S. students perform better on science and mathematics assessments than older students? One interpretation is that today's fourth graders will be tomorrow's IT workers, with a strong mathematics and science base to draw on. On the other hand, if the current pattern of declining test scores with age persists, these youngsters may perform more poorly in mathematics and science as they near high school graduation —just at the time when they might prepare for college-level IT study and/or for IT work. 1 The TIMSS assessed students at ages 9, 13, and 17 using a combination of multiple-choice questions and open-ended exercises. The study was designed to overcome a problem of previous international comparisons, in which test scores from a broad general population of U.S. high school students were compared with scores of the few students enrolled in elite, college preparatory schools in other countries. Each country participating in the TIMSS was required to administer the test to a broad sample of school classes chosen to reflect the characteristics of the country's overall population. Forty-one countries participated in the assessment of 13-year-olds, 26 in the assessment of 9-year-olds, and 21 countries assessed their 17-year-olds. As reflected in its name, the TIMSS is the third in a series of such international assessments. 2 U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. 1998. Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Twelfth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 3 For example, in 1999, 97 percent of U.S. 12th graders had an initial understanding of the four basic operations of arithmetic and 61 percent could perform moderately complex procedures and reasoning (such as a basic understanding of number systems). However, only 8 percent had the reasoning skills to solve multistep problems such as those that involve algebra (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. 2000. National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1999: Trends in Academic Progress. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office). 4 Pellegrino, James W., Lee R. Jones, and Karen J. Mitchell, eds. 1999. Grading the Nation's Report Card: Evaluating NAEP and Transforming the Assessment of Educational Progress. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. 5 Pellegrino et al., 1999, Grading the Nation's Report Card. 6 U.S. Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics. 1997. Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Fourth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy The State of Secondary Education As noted above, it is important to the future of the IT workforce that the curriculum of secondary school mathematics and science provide a strong foundation for later study and training in IT and IT-related sub-
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy jects. And yet, secondary mathematics and science education common in most U.S. secondary schools today may discourage some students from pursuing further IT education or training, because it does not provide the cognitive and intellectual base for learning about IT and IT-related subjects.3 For example, only a small fraction of U.S. secondary school students demonstrated an ability to integrate mathematical concepts and procedures to solve complex problems (see Box 7.1). Such skills are essential for any advanced study of IT. A second example is the fact that the traditional high school mathematics curriculum, especially for college-bound students, is directed toward the study of calculus. But calculus, oriented toward continuous representations, does not generally speak to discrete mathematical representations or their manipulation. From the point of view of specific content, discrete mathematics is generally more useful than continuous mathematics as a foundation for most software-oriented IT work (graphics is a notable counterexample).4 Much of the science in secondary education is similarly disconnected from IT career paths. For example, the Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies found that the work involved in several groups of IT careers did not require the discipline-specific knowledge associated with the biology, chemistry, earth science, or physics courses that characterize the typical high school science sequence.5 Rather, individuals in these careers made extensive use of modeling, logical thinking, problem solving, and intellectual discipline—abilities developed in the course of studying science.6 3 Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. 1999. Joint Venture's Workforce Study: An Analysis of the Workforce Gap in Silicon Valley. Palo Alto: Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. Available online at <http://www.jointventure.org/initiatives/edt/work_gap/home.html>. 4 At the same time, study of advanced high school mathematics may help some young people develop logical thinking and quantitative reasoning skills that are essential to many types of IT work. See, for example, Adelman, Clifford. 1997. Leading, Concurrent, or Lagging: The Knowledge Content of Computer Science in Higher Education and the Labor Market. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. 5 Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies (NWCET). 1999. Building a Foundation for Tomorrow: Skill Standards for Information Technology. Bellevue, Wash.: NWCET, pp/23-24. 6 A major exception to these comments is IT career paths that involve hardware. For such careers, continuous mathematics and physics are highly relevant, because these subjects are the basis for future work in design topics such as circuit theory and chip design. In light of the growing demand for IT hardware workers, it is perhaps worrisome that in 1996, 14 percent of high school graduates took precalculus or third-year algebra but only 7 percent took calculus. (See National Assessment of Educational Progress. 1996. Student Work and Teacher Practice. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.) Nevertheless, a grounding in discrete mathematics is relevant as well for much hardware-oriented work.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy Accordingly, the contribution of secondary science and mathematics education to addressing tightness in the IT workforce is likely to be measured by the extent to which that education can promote the exercise and development of cognitive abilities such as logical thinking, problem solving, analysis, careful observation, and data management. These abilities are highly valued in the workplace, and they are vital to successfully performing both Category 1 and Category 2 IT work.7 Finally, in addition to providing the foundational skills and abilities for those entering postsecondary education in IT disciplines, secondary education can also prepare some students to enter certain Category 2 IT jobs directly. Some properly prepared high school students are hired into occupations such as network technician, Web page author, and help desk technician. As part of that preparation, some high schools offer courses leading to vendor certifications (see discussion in Section 7.1.5). However, high school preparation alone can rarely provide an adequate foundation for movement directly into Category 1 IT jobs. Access to IT in the Classroom The committee believes that early exposure to computers may help spark long-term interest in IT careers and encourage students to seek the education necessary to prepare for them.8 Over the past decade, U.S. public schools have made great progress in obtaining access to information technology, though as noted in Chapter 6, the progress is not uniform among various socioeconomic classes and ethnic categories. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the proportion of schools with Internet access has increased rapidly from 35 percent in 1994 to 89 percent in 1998, and 51 percent of instructional rooms had access to the Internet in 1998. Furthermore, the fraction of students using computers at school increased from 59 percent in 1993 to 69 percent in 1997.9 In addition, the IT sector has made major contributions to strengthening the IT dimension of K-12 education. For example, the Intel Corporation 's Teach to the Future program brings together IT companies including Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Premio Computer, and Intel in an effort to train 400,000 teachers in 1,000 days. In the next 3 years, Intel will 7 Northwest Center for Emerging Technologies, 1999, Building a Foundation for Tomorrow: Skill Standards for Information Technology. 8 The committee recognizes some controversy about this point, as some have argued that greater access to information technology in schools is not likely to produce larger numbers of people interested in IT careers. 9 U.S. Department of Education. 1999. Digest of Educational Statistics. Available online at <http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2000/digest99/chapter7.html>.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy contribute $100 million in cash, equipment, curriculum development, and program management while Microsoft will add $344 million in software and program support. Nevertheless, much more remains to be done. Most teachers lack the professional development and support (e.g., training and release time) needed to incorporate information technology into daily instruction, and as a result, significant numbers of such teachers either ignore the pedagogical uses of technology or use technology ineffectively. 10 Further, continual technological change, combined with public education 's limited financial resources, results in deployed educational technology that is often obsolete—making it difficult to use currently available resources to teach students about technology. Young People's Views of Education and IT Careers Young people's views and attitudes are related to both their academic achievement and their career choices, and these factors, in turn, influence the size of the future IT workforce. For example, one reason that most young people today do not consider IT careers may be a simple lack of information. Even in Silicon Valley, most students know little about IT careers and how to prepare for work in the industry. A 1999 survey of over 1,000 Silicon Valley eighth graders and high school juniors revealed that a higher proportion of students understood the careers of lawyer, doctor/nurse, farmer, administrative assistant, and sales and marketing than understood the careers of engineer or computer programmer.11 When asked what kinds of courses they thought were required for IT jobs, a large majority of the students indicated that computer courses would be useful, only about 15 per cent indicated that mathematics courses were important, and less than 3 percent responded that science courses would be useful. The attitudes of young people toward mathematics are related both to their success in the subject and to their age, and these affective issues (including beliefs, attitudes, and emotions) influence both teaching practice and student learning in mathematics.12 Surveys and analysis of test 10 See, for example, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment. 1995. Teachers and Technology: Making the Connection, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, p. 2; and Seymour, Liz, 2000, “Teachers Online but Disconnected,” The Washington Post, March 18. 11 Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. 1999. Joint Venture's Workforce Study: An Analysis of the Workforce Gap in Silicon Valley. San Jose, Calif.: Joint Venture: Silicon Valley Network. 12 McLeod, Douglas B. 1992. “Research on Affect in Mathematics Education: A Reconceptualization, ” in Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, Douglas A. Grouws, ed. New York: Macmillan.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy scores of U.S. school children suggest that students who perform well in mathematics have a positive attitude toward the subject.13 Recognizing the potential importance of affect, the goals of the national mathematics standards include helping students understand the value of mathematics and increasing student confidence.14 Surveys conducted in the 1980s and 1990s indicated that U.S. students ' attitudes toward mathematics and their confidence about the subject declined with age.15 In 1996, the fraction of students who agreed with the statement, “I like mathematics” declined from 69 percent at grade 4 to 56 percent in grade 8 and further still to 50 percent at grade 12.16 Student attitudes regarding mathematics may decline with age for several reasons. In elementary school, mathematics is a major component of the curriculum, and the curriculum is relatively easy. However, in middle school and high school, mathematics becomes increasingly difficult. At the same time, students are given a broader array of courses and subjects to choose from. Given this wider array of choices and the increasing difficulty of science and mathematics courses, many older students prefer other subjects. For example, in the small sample surveyed in Silicon Valley, students indicated that they most enjoyed art, drama, and speech courses. A much smaller fraction (about 16 percent) of students indicated that they most enjoyed mathematics courses, computer science courses, or physical education courses, and less than 10 percent indicated that science classes were their favorites. When asked why art, drama, and speech were their favorite classes, the most frequent response was that the class was “fun,” followed closely by “have strong interest.” Beliefs as well as attitudes may affect motivation to study, to work hard, and to achieve in mathematics (and computer science). Many Americans believe that learning mathematics results primarily from ability rather than individual effort and freely admit ignorance of the sub- 13 The relationship between attitude and achievement is complex, and current research suggests that there is not a direct causal relationship between the two. For example, Japanese students surveyed in the 1980s indicated that they disliked mathematics more than students in other countries, yet these students had very high mathematics achievement (McLeod, 1992, “Research on Affect in Mathematics in Education”). 14 National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 1989. Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics: Executive Summary. Reston, Va.: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. 15 McKnight, C.C., F.J. Crosswhite, J.A.J. Dossey, E. Kifer, J.O. Swafford, K.J. Travers, and T.J. Cooney. 1987. The Underachieving Curriculum: Assessing U.S. School Mathematics from an International Perspective. Champaign, Ill.: Stipes Publishing Company. 16 Mitchell, Julia H., et al. 1999. “Student Work and Teacher Practices in Mathematics.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, March.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy ject.17 Several surveys conducted in the late 1980s indicated that U.S. students viewed mathematics as important, but difficult and based largely on memorization and on following rules. More recently, in 1996, the fraction of U.S. students who agreed that “everyone can do well in mathematics if they try,” declined from 89 percent at grade 4 to only 50 percent by grade 12.18 Such beliefs are not surprising in light of analyses that suggest traditional mathematics instruction has emphasized “low-level cognitive activity, such as memorizing and recalling, rather than high-level thinking, such as reasoning and problem-solving.”19 However, if students believe that most mathematical problems can be quickly and easily solved by following rules, they may be unwilling to persist in solving more challenging and unique problems.20 Furthermore, cognitive studies have shown that negative student beliefs about mathematics are correlated positively with an inability to solve unusual problems.21 Thus, current student beliefs—as well as the instructional and curricular approaches that reinforce such beliefs—may pose a barrier to developing the problem-solving, analytical, and reasoning skills that are essential to many types of IT work. 7.1.2 Higher Education—Baccalaureate The discussion below focuses primarily on computer science in higher education. Such a focus is not intended to exclude discussion of other fields, such as information systems or computer engineering; however, in light of this report's focus on software-related fields (discussed in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2), it is the computer science discipline (which is broadly defined 17 In 1989, the National Research Council called for changing the public 's beliefs about mathematics, in Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press). 18 Mitchell, Julia H., et al. 1999. “Student Work and Teacher Practices in Mathematics.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, March. 19 Silver, Edward A. 1998. “Improving Mathematics in Middle School: Lessons from TIMSS and Related Research.” Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement. 20 Schoenfield and Silver, cited in McLeod, Douglas B. 1992. “Research on Affect in Mathematics Education: A Reconceptualization, ” in Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning, Douglas A. Grouws, ed. New York: Macmillan. 21 McLeod, 1992, “Research on Affect in Mathematics Education: A Reconceptualization. ” However, as always, correlation does not necessarily imply causation. Thus, correlations cannot establish whether students who feel positively about mathematics are able to solve unusual problems or whether an inability to solve unusual problems causes students to feel negatively about mathematics.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy in a way that is intended to encompass associated fields such as software engineering) that speaks most directly to such workforce needs. Content As noted in Chapter 2, IT workers have many different types of backgrounds and many types of undergraduate education. However, formal education in computer science is often one important element of a good preparation for Category 1 IT work. Thus, before examining the supply of graduates with computer science degrees, it is important to look at the additional value that formal computer science education provides to IT workers. The value of formal computer science education depends in part on the nature of the IT work in question. Category 2 work generally does not require the knowledge and skills provided by 4 years of college study in IT-related fields; however, those doing Category 1 work often require such knowledge for two distinct reasons. One reason deals with short-term value, the second with long-term value. Formal computer science education provides knowledge and conceptual understanding that are relevant over a very wide range of applications. A person without formal computer science education may be able to undertake relatively small, but still useful, IT projects. And, because solving business problems often requires only basic solutions, these individuals can work in domains in which Category 1 IT professionals work. Indeed, in the early days of computing and information technology, an individual could go a long way inventing an entire system from scratch.22 However, the power and utility of formal computer science education are seen—and needed—only in the context of much larger projects. Developers of programs to deal with “small” problems (e.g., with few variables) need not address issues of algorithmic complexity and how the run time of a program varies with the number of variables being addressed. But it is in the nature of some problems that the same algorithm applied to a larger number of variables will simply take too long, and changing from a slower processor to a faster processor will make essentially no difference at all. Someone with an understanding of algorithmic complexity will arrive at this conclusion much more rapidly, and is more likely to seek an alternative algorithm. 22 These comments are echoed in Roberts, Eric, “Computing Education and the Information Technology Workforce,” a white paper provided to the Committee on Workforce Needs in Information Technology, March 2000.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy Developers of programs that manipulate small amounts of data are not generally concerned with efficiency of memory use. For example, for many problems involving small amounts of data, the use of simple arrays is quite convenient and entails little overhead. But the use of arrays may well not scale to problems using large amounts of data, and linked lists or other methods of arranging data may be much more effective despite the overhead they entail. Techniques for using linked lists are more likely to be encountered in the course of a formal computer science education than in the course of reading language reference manuals. Developers of programs that are small or are intended for personal use are notorious for writing code that is undocumented and difficult to understand. Techniques for documenting programs and enhancing maintainability become essential for large programs and systems, and these techniques are likely to be encountered in the course of an individual's first team-based or project-based effort, whether in school or on the job. It is possible for individuals lacking formal computer science background to do “small” or “basic” projects in or with information technology. But, as the above examples illustrate, when business requirements and problems involve more complex or larger solutions, individuals with formal computer science education become more valuable. Moreover, successful software projects now require much greater attention to project management and software engineering skills. These skills are taught and developed in formal IT undergraduate programs, and few individuals are likely to discover them on their own.23 The long-term value of formal computer science education is encapsulated in the old saying about giving a man a fish versus teaching him to fish. Although young relative to other disciplines, computer science has matured over the past 25 years, and today it is not simply a collection of isolated bits of knowledge. Over time, computer science course offerings have reflected a growing emphasis on theory, expansion of advanced topics, and differentiation of subfields. There is less emphasis on particular current technology and more on fundamentals. 24 As a result of this evolution, current computer science education provides the core knowledge and abilities needed for IT work to a much greater extent than the computer science education of 25 years ago. Thus, recognizing that current IT graduates can handle a wide variety of challenges, some current IT 23 Roberts, 2000, “Computing Education and the Information Technology Workforce,” white paper. 24 Adelman, Clifford. 1997. Leading, Concurrent, or Lagging: The Knowledge Content of Computer Science in Higher Education and the Labor Market. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy informal training to these figures roughly doubles the amount of training, to about 15 minutes per day.81 Those IT firms that do invest in training try to target their training to specific skills. For example, one mid-sized Texas firm is investing heavily to retrain programmers skilled in C++ as Java programmers. Workers who wish to develop other types of skills, however, are expected to train on their own time, in addition to handling their existing duties. The company provides books, videos, and partial tuition reimbursement. Even while following these practices, managers at this firm are concerned about the lack of training in the industry. One manager said, “We are cannibalizing our future by emphasizing short-term productivity over long-term professional development.”82 As discussed in Chapter 2, the majority of IT workers are not employed in the IT sector. The estimates cited above indicate that workers employed outside of high-technology industries receive less formal training than do workers employed in high-technology industries. Thus, the training gaps discussed here may even be greater for the majority of workers employed outside the IT sector. Training and Firm Size National surveys of workers and managers conducted over the past decade have consistently shown that large organizations provide formal training more frequently than smaller ones.83 Small IT firms do not 81 In response to a request from the American Electronics Association, Bureau of Labor Statistics staff compared data on training in IT with training in all other industries (Frazis, Harley, et al. 1998. “Results from the 1995 Survey of Employer-Provided Training,” Monthly Labor Review, June). Drawing on a large, nationally representative survey of firms and a smaller survey of workers, BLS estimated that IT firms provide employees with 64 hours of both formal and informal training per year, or about 15 minutes per day. (The data for the BLS survey were drawn from the BLS 1995 survey of a nationally representative sample of companies with 50 or more employees. About 1,000 employers completed detailed logs on formal training activities, and about 1,000 randomly selected employees in the same firms provided detailed logs of informal as well as formal training. The employees were asked to report any activity in which they were taught a skill or were provided with new information to help them do their job better. The resulting data are more detailed and accurate than previous estimates of informal training, but the small sample size and relatively short time period of the logs make the data on informal training less precise than the data on formal training.) 82 Manager, software firm, Austin, Texas (site visit by Committee on Workforce Needs in Information Technology, December 1999). 83 Lynch, Lisa M., and Sandra E. Black, 1998, “Beyond the Incidence of Employer-Provided Training”; Frazis, Harley, et al., 1998, “Results from the 1995 Survey of Employer-Provided Training,” Monthly Labor Review, June; Amirault, Thomas, and Alan Eck, 1992, How Workers Get Their Training: A 1991 Update, Bulletin 2407, Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Labor Statistics, August.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy appear to be an exception. For example, one small new application service provider (about 200 employees) relies entirely on recruiting “pretrained IT personnel.” A manager of this firm testified to the committee that it did not provide in-house training because of the rapid pace of change in technology and applications, the multitude of vendor products for which individuals had to have expertise, the short tenure of employees (less than 2 years), and a lack of funds to support training. As a rule, smaller firms are less likely than larger firms to have the expertise needed either to develop courses internally or to make good decisions about the broad array of training available from outside vendors. For example, among the 70 percent of Massachusetts IT firms that have 25 or fewer employees, most do not have any full-time human resources staff.84 In addition, smaller firms may find it even more difficult than larger ones to release personnel from production to spend time being trained because they have fewer employees to take up the slack left by an employee who has left for training (or any other purpose). In contrast, large employers often have formal human resources departments with the resources to provide training, and because they are large enough to achieve significant economies of scale, do provide extensive training. For example, the Intel Corporation provides extensive training to newly hired recent college graduates, as well as more experienced workers. The company spends about $350 million a year on employee training, with a particular focus on areas such as chip design, where outside training programs are not available to prepare people for Intel jobs. Larger firms can also more easily provide on-the-job training opportunities by linking training to internal mobility within the firm. Some firms provide formal training on a “just-in-time” basis to employees coming off one project and starting another project where different skills are required. The opportunity to work with employees in different projects or across corporate divisions also enhances informal “situated learning.” These practices are more often found in larger, more stable firms, such as government contractors that are able to win longer-term contracts. With relatively long lead times, human resources and project managers are able to plan ahead to retrain and redeploy personnel within the company. Employees at one such company cited extensive training opportunities, the ability to move into different divisions and do different types of work, and the value of stock in the employee-owned firm as key reasons why 84 Joyce Plotkin, Massachusetts Software Council, testimony to the committee, December 1999.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy they stay. This company has much lower annual turnover than is typical among IT firms more generally. 7.2.7 Historical Experiences in Training Large-scale efforts to retool workers in companies that have reoriented their business strategies have succeeded in some cases and failed in others. For example, IBM was known for many years for its commitment to employment security. As its business began to shift away from a focus on mainframe computers to client-server systems, top management at first followed its historical approach of training current employees. However, training the mainframe-oriented workforce in the new systems proved difficult and sometimes impossible. According to one executive, “Retraining helped, but there were a lot of cases where retraining didn't help.” More recently, over the past 2 years, IBM has transformed itself into an electronic business, with requirements for workers with Web knowledge and Internet/Intranet experience. Again, it sought to develop such workers from within the firm. Following the earlier changes, the company now has a strong base of workers with skills in client-server hardware and software. Once again, however, training and moving these workers from client-server-oriented jobs into Web-based jobs have proved difficult. The bottom line, according to a senior IBM executive, is that despite the IBM history of investing time and money in training, IBM is now “looking to bring people in to fill those assignments. ”85 Other companies, however, have succeeded in training IT workers to work with new technology. For example, Novell (a much smaller company than IBM) has retrained about 2,000 programmers worldwide in Java skills. Most were C or assembly programmers, so they could be considered sophisticated “systems programmers” but they were not “object-oriented.” At this point, after beginning the project in 1996, around 25 percent of all Novell code is written in Java and its products are deployed more rapidly and with greater flexibility into the marketplace. 86 Another example is Computer Associates, a large New York-area firm that “believes in re-inventing people.” Five years ago, its work was focused on mainframes. Today, its portfolio is split about equally between mainframe and client-server applications, and this has been achieved without any layoffs. More discussion of employer efforts in training is provided in Box 7.8. 85 Nancy Stewart, assistant to the Vice President of Talent, IBM, in a presentation to the Committee on Workforce Needs in Information Technology, September 22, 1999. 86 Holbrook, Steven. 1999. “Reengineering with Java: A Novell Perspective,” Distributed Computing (October).
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy BOX 7.8 Training in ASTD Firms Larger firms, and the human resources development experts they employ, often participate actively in the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), a professional association.1 In an ongoing effort to measure the value of training and skills, ASTD provides a free benchmarking service to organizations that provide detailed information on their training investments, innovative human resources practices, and performance outcomes. In 1998, about 750 organizations participated in this process, reporting on their training activities and expenditures during 1997. Large firms in several sectors that employ large numbers of IT workers, as well as the IT sector, participated in the study.2 Among this small,3 self-selected sample, the IT sector was a leader,4 with the highest training expenditures as a percentage of payroll and one of the highest expenditures per employee, when compared to other industry sectors. Not surprisingly, the IT sector led in the use of advanced training delivery technologies. Although reporting one of the highest levels of internal trainers per employee (compared to other sectors), IT firms also used a large percentage of outside trainers and independent consultants, educational institutions, and product suppliers. During 1999, an even smaller group of 276 organizations responded to a new component of the ASTD benchmarking survey, designed to measure intellectual capital. Because this new portion of the survey is difficult and time-consuming, only those organizations most committed to innovative training and human resources practices are likely to respond.5 Among this group of organizations, the single largest group is IT companies. Overall, the 276 firms, including large IT firms, had low turnover rates (averaging 11.5 percent) and high levels of basic IT literacy, and they spent an average of 2.2 percent of payroll on training. 1 Founded in 1944, ASTD focuses on workplace learning and performance issues. The association provides information, research, and analysis, as well as conferences, expositions, seminars, and publications. ASTD is made up of more than 70,000 people, working in more than 15,000 companies, government agencies, colleges, and universities worldwide. Additional information is available online at <www.astd.org>. 2 In the financial, insurance, and real estate sector, Allstate, Aetna, Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank; in manufacturing, Boeing, Caterpiller, Hoffmann-La Roche, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Lockheed Martin; in government, the U.S. Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Transportation and the Office of Personnel Management; in the IT sector (as defined by ASTD—see footnote 4), AT&T, Compaq, IBM, Intel, MCI, Motorola, Sprint, Qualcomm, Xerox. 3 By comparison, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 5 million private business establishments in the United States as a whole. 4 The information technology sector—defined by ASTD to include computer, electronics, and communications equipment manufacturers; software designers; telecommunications services; and information technology services and consulting firms—made up 15.3 percent of the 750 respondents to the 1998 benchmarking survey. 5 “Intellectual Capital: Measuring It Like It Matters,” a presentation by Bassi et al., American Society for Training and Development, January 13, 2000, National Center for Postsecondary Improvement Policy Seminar (supported by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education).
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy 7.2.8 Approaches to Shared Training As they work to develop stable, successful employment and training programs, employers of IT workers may consider the model of regional training consortia. These consortia are organizations (often incorporated as nonprofits) that are funded primarily by member companies and that work in partnership with education, government, and/or organized labor.87 Such regional consortia can help to overcome the “free rider” problem that results when some firms (often the larger firms) invest in education and training, while other firms “steal” the trained employees. They also allow member companies to pool their training resources and achieve economies of scale. Many IT employers have already begun to develop shared education and training programs through organizations such as Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, the Massachusetts Software Council, the Maryland High Technology Council, the Northern Virginia Regional Partnership, and the New York New Media Association. One kind of economy of scale results from the fact that the number of personnel a single company can spare for training activities may not be large enough to justify the cost of that training if it is provided in-house. Banding together in a training consortia allows companies to provide a “critical mass” of employees for training that can be justified on a sufficiently low cost-perperson basis. Often, the first step in developing shared education and training programs is to analyze the local education and training system. For example, Joint Venture: Silicon Valley commissioned a study that not only examined the availability of skilled IT workers, but also surveyed local high school students to assess their knowledge of, and interest in, pursuing IT careers.88 This study found that the many business-education partnerships already working to educate and train current and future IT workers in Silicon Valley were “fragmented and unsustainable,” and called for a “comprehensive and regional approach.” Another example of IT employers' efforts to share the costs and benefits of training is that of the Massachusetts Software Council (MSC). The MSC program sends volunteer IT workers into schools, both to improve network connections and to educate students about IT careers, and arranges internships for college students and recent graduates. For 3 years, 87 There are currently 14 regional training consortia, or “high road partnerships.” See Working for America Institute. 2000. High Road Partnerships Report. Washington, D.C.: AFL-CIO. 88 Joint Venture: Silicon Valley. 1999. Joint Venture's Workforce Study: An Analysis of the Workforce Gap in Silicon Valley. San Jose, Calif.: Joint Venture: Silicon Valley.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy the MSC operated a successful program that combined classroom training and internships to retrain and reemploy displaced workers in IT careers. Ninety percent of the workers, whose ages ranged from 40 to 60, were placed in new jobs, at an average annual salary of $55,000. However, this program lacked stable financial support from employers and was stopped when state and federal funding ran out.89 Existing organizations working to develop sustained infrastructure for shared training of IT workers might learn from the example of the training consortia that exist in other industries. Employers in a variety of industries, including the graphic arts industry in San Francisco, metal-working firms in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and hospitals in Philadelphia and New York, financially support these consortia. For example, the graphic arts industry in San Francisco supports a consortium that provides workshops and courses to advertising, printing, and graphic design professionals, using the latest computer hardware and software. Consortia provide a cost-effective way to upgrade the skills of current employees, improving job performance and customer satisfaction.90 Most of these regional training consortia have won state and federal funding, allowing them to expand their pool of trainees beyond the employees of member companies. For example, the hospital consortium in Philadelphia currently trains about 10,000 people per year, about half of whom are hospital employees and half of whom are members of the public. Federal and state welfare-to-work grants support remedial basic education and occupational training for former welfare recipients, while federal displaced-worker funds support training and outplacement programs for laid-off hospital workers. Most recently, the consortium won a $560,000 discretionary grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, funded by H-1B visa fees, to provide technical training for RNs and LPNs. Hospitals that participate in the Philadelphia consortium rely on the consortium for help in recruiting and training nurses' aides and licensed practical nurses. Federal funding has helped employers tap labor pools, such as welfare recipients, that require remediation of basic skills and support services as well as technical skill training. 89 According to Suzanne Teegarden, former director of the Massachusetts State Training Agency, the small numbers of trainees involved (about 50 per year) made it impossible to justify further public funding. 90 For example, the 12 hotels participating in the San Francisco Hotel Partnership Project have found that involving workers in designing and implementing training programs has resulted in higher scores on guest satisfaction surveys.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy 7.3 INTEGRATING WORK AND LEARNING The committee has heard much testimony that employers prefer a combination of formal education and training with work experience, especially for positions above entry level. Chapter 2 discusses the notion of “situated” learning and the idea that formal education and training, by themselves, do not lead to true mastery of IT work. All workers, including IT workers, develop and refine some of their most critical skills on the job. Experts who have studied the reasons that formal training can fail to translate into improved job performance have identified social and contextual factors as critical. For example, if a worker receives training in a new skill but has no opportunity to apply and refine the new skills once back at work, the training will have a limited impact on job performance. Similarly, the degree to which the trained worker's supervisor supports that individual in applying the new skills influences the degree to which formal training and education transfer to the job.91 Against this background, employers who seek IT workers with some experience in addition to formal training are behaving rationally. To improve training transfer, many companies are experimenting with innovative approaches for training that integrate work and learning. For example, in 1995 Apple Computer reorganized its management training, based on the assumption that most “students” already understand the basics. 92 The reorganization shifted from a behavioral to an experiential approach that included shorter training sessions focused on existing work groups to build teamwork, classroom exercises based on participants ' actual challenges and problems on the job, smaller class sizes, and providing training at the trainees' location. In short, the goal was to see training holistically, as an organizational intervention, rather than as a limited program. The Xerox Corporation, which has sponsored extensive research into situated learning at its Palo Alto Research Center (Xerox PARC), has also adopted “situated” training for its sales agents. In so doing, the company decided to support and leverage the learning that already happens on the job by offering dedicated, field-based, new-hire learning support. The support system was designed to integrate learning with work, build on the new hire's knowledge and skill incrementally, and help the new hire develop relationships within his or her work communities. Its goal was to enable the new hire's ability to put the training into practice in the 91 Ford, J. Kevin. 1997. “Transfer of Training: An Updated Review and Analysis,” Performance Improvement Quarterly 10(2):22-41. 92 Keegan, Linda, and Betsy Jacobson. 1995. “Training Goes Modular at Apple,” Training and Development, July.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy context in which it would be used. Following a successful pilot test, this support system was implemented nationally in 1999.93 Although national data are not yet available, anecdotal evidence indicates that the program has been very successful. For example, one group of new hires, while still participating in the 8-week training program, together sold over $1 million of Xerox equipment. Companies that have drawn on the situated perspective to change their training programs have generally found that the new approaches are less expensive. They involve less time away from productive work, which is the most expensive component of most company training. In addition, they require less expense for classroom space and trainer salaries, because they more frequently take place in the regular workplace and may use a manager or facilitator, rather than a training specialist. In practical terms, what does it mean to integrate work and learning? Consider one example found by many employers to be successful and effective: internships. Such experiences tend to be more successful at integrating work and learning when they expose students to various aspects of a company, various jobs within a company, and various types of assignments that might come up in a job, and internships should allow students to apply some skills they have learned in the classroom to a real-world project. From the educator's perspective, structured internships that are closely related to the content of the courses can be a useful complement to those courses. The structure is needed to ensure that the internship does indeed include some training and is not just “work experience.” However, structure does not imply taking the intern off the job and putting him/her into a training classroom, a move that would defeat the purpose of the internship. Instead, it might mean facilitating the intern's natural interactions with colleagues and encouraging informal learning. This could be as simple as planning deliberately who the intern should go to lunch with each day to get a good overview of the organization and jobs within it. Or it could mean assigning the intern one or two mentors. The mentors who guide interns in the workplace could also work as adjunct faculty in the educational institution. They could bring a bit of the real world into the classroom, whether as actual instructors or simply as regular visitors. This would allow them to get a better idea of the education students are getting, and help them place student interns into projects that will allow them to apply their “book learning. ” 93 Cefkin, Melissa. 1999. “The Integration of Work and Learning for Xerox's New Hire Sales Representatives: A Project Review,” draft. Palo Alto, Calif.: The Institute for Research on Learning.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy Finally, cognitive theory and an examination of actual engineering design practice suggest that engineering is more effectively learned through integrated experiences than through formal classroom teaching. In contrast to a pedagogical approach in which design and analysis are taught in separate classes, students might be engaged in exercises that integrate problem formulation, analysis, and synthesis. For example, these exercises and other classroom experiences might be based on videotapes that illuminate how students apply formal knowledge in practice, how they learn, and the social context in which they learn; in addition, these new exercises could be used as a form of educational assessment.94 Others argue that current engineering education focuses too exclusively on the abstract objects of engineering design,95 ignoring the reality that design takes place within a larger social and organizational context. These authors suggest that engineering should teach all aspects of design, including the process of negotiating among interested parties, as well as the feasibility of manufacturing, construction, assembly, prototyping, and cost. Students should be presented with open-ended problems that encourage them to ask a variety of questions, and not only questions specifically related to engineering. This, in turn, suggests that engineering faculty should act as coaches or mentors, and should have broad backgrounds, not narrowly specialized expertise. 7.4 RECAP Education and training are strategies for facilitating an upward shift in the domestic supply of IT workers. Education begins with high-quality K-12 education. In particular, improving secondary mathematics and science education can help young people develop intellectual, reasoning, and problem-solving skills needed to succeed in higher education for IT and in many IT jobs. In addition, because advanced high school mathematics and science courses are prerequisites for entry into many 4-year IT programs as well as some IT jobs, improvements in mathematics and science education should increase the number of college students who are able to graduate with IT degrees and succeed in IT jobs. The supply of IT workers could also be increased if institutions of higher education increased the rate at which they educate and graduate individuals with IT-related degrees. The number of graduates with 4-year degrees in IT-related disciplines does not meet the current demand for IT 94 Linde, Charlotte, M. Brereton, J. Greeno, J. Lewis, and L. Leifer. 1993. “An Exploration of Engineering Learning.” Palo Alto, Calif.: Institute for Research and Learning. 95 Bucciarelli, Louis L., and Sarah Kuhn, “Engineering Education and Engineering Practice: Improving the Fit, ” in Barley and Orr, 1997, Between Craft and Science.
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy workers (especially those doing Category 1 work), and employers now hire large numbers of college graduates without IT degrees for Category 1 jobs. However, formal exposure to computer science and related subjects will become increasingly important for Category 1 jobs in the future. College-level education in IT-related disciplines is generally of high quality, providing workers the skills they need to contribute to large IT projects and to adapt to changing technology. Workers with such degrees can be a key asset in helping companies succeed in the marketplace. However, the quality of both 2-year and 4-year programs in IT disciplines could be improved by increasing work-based internships, engaging IT professionals in design and delivery of instruction, and generally strengthening the linkages between the workplace and the classroom. Institutional factors, such as a lack of qualified faculty, computing facilities, and classroom space, limit the potential for rapidly increasing the number of enrollments and graduates from 4-year IT programs. However, increasing the number of students with IT minors may be possible within a shorter time frame, enhancing the supply of IT workers. Two-year colleges have the potential to rapidly increase supplies of workers qualified for some types of IT jobs. Currently, community colleges provide initial preparation to some students who transfer to a 4-year IT program, and graduate others with associate's degrees in IT fields. In addition, community colleges are playing a growing role in upgrading the skills of current IT workers and training workers from other occupations for IT careers. The number of schools offering IT training, and enrollments in those schools, are growing already, and could potentially grow even faster. Increasing enrollments and graduates from advanced postgraduate education can also help to relieve labor market tightness. IT researchers and workers with advanced degrees may help to enhance the productivity of both current and future workers through research and development, thus slowing the rate of growth in demand for new workers. At the same time, postgraduate education provides the “seed corn” or faculty to educate the next generation of IT workers. However, current IT labor markets provide little financial incentive for individuals from the United States to obtain postgraduate degrees, particularly at the master 's level. The pace of technological change in IT increases the costs and benefits of training for both employers and workers. Employers gain by having an alternative to hiring new workers, and thus, appropriately structured training, involving the integration of work experience with “formal ” learning, can help to relieve tightness in the IT labor market. On the other hand, workers who receive training may be more likely to leave, and economic and competitive pressures discourage employers from providing support for ongoing training. From the worker's standpoint, rapid
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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy technological change increases the intellectual burdens to stay current, but those who take on these burdens and keep their skills up to date are usually more employable than those who have not. Over the longer term, ongoing training could relieve tightness in IT labor markets both by reducing turnover (which causes vacancies) and by increasing supply. Fully trained workers would likely be more productive, thus reducing the rate of growth in demand for new IT workers. And with well-established ongoing training systems in place, employers could more easily hire and productively employ workers from other occupations, thus increasing the total supply of skilled IT workers. The potential contribution of ongoing training to increasing the supply of IT workers will likely be easier to realize over the long term because in the future, the IT workforce will include a larger proportion of workers with a formal IT education. With strong foundation skills, these workers may be easier to retrain than those in the current workforce.
Representative terms from entire chapter: