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


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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