November 5, 2013

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Industry Outlook: Technology Entrepreneurs

November 5, 2013

But at the end of the day, I agree with you. We need about 6,000 software engineers. Our universities put out probably about 500. There’s this huge gap that needs to be covered.

RICHARDS: Around the country they’re forming 12-week courses to take people from nothing to a junior software engineer status. A class just started this last week in Utah County that had about 200 applicants for 20 slots. And now they’re employable. All the companies say they’ll hire the people.

There should be a lot of these programs. Twelve weeks and you can get somebody a $60 to $80,000 job coming out of that, or higher sometimes if they’re really good, a natural physicist that ends up being a good programmer. But companies and the state need to support those types of efforts more.

JOHNSON: Which begs the higher education disruption question, too, because you can do that and be employable or you can go take two years of biology and whatever else and then figure out how to do it after you graduate.

SLOVIK: Well, I’m not sure that I’m on the same page here. To get the real talent you need for real innovation and big ideas, you’re not going to get that taking a six-week course.

I don’t want someone who thinks, “Well, I’m just going to take a 10-week course.” You know, why are you studying programming? Because that’s where the paycheck is. I want people who love programming, who spend nights and weekends learning all the intricacies because they want to be the best at it, because they have a passion for it.

So it’s a longer-term solution. It’s not a 12-week Band-Aid. We have to get in much earlier, infect them with a passion for solving problems, of learning for learning’s sake—not just because there’s a job there, but because it’s interesting. When you get that, a lot of great things happen.

SKONNARD: But I think the passion is what actually fuels the success of these new learning models. It doesn’t really have to do with the structure of the learning environment. It’s more about the passion that someone has that can drive them forward in a more efficient way, without having to go to a four-year institution.

If we can tap into that kind of passion in elementary school, middle school and high school—at Jordan High, for example, when we did the workshop there, we found two or three kids who are already shipping their first IOS apps, making money. We should do more to fuel tech talent as a state and think big and really take a leadership position as a state in the country—because now’s the time to be doing this.

GREEN: It’s cultural. It has to permeate the culture, really, from the early years. From top to bottom, it’s got to be supported and has to be made cool to solve problems and to start businesses or apply your knowledge.

LUMAN: My 12-year-old is learning Python on his own. Why isn’t that happening in seventh grade? Why isn’t he getting that introduction there?

SKONNARD: That’s the thing. If they’re never exposed to it, they’re never going to know. If don’t have the right parents, the right friends, the right family, they may never know. That’s why the exposure is just a huge part of it.

JOHNSON: There’s probably a half dozen initiatives in the state, if not more, to help out with this very same problem. And we’ve got the technology resources and the business resources to package that up and do a road show to every middle school and do a big hurrah.

SLOVIK: I agree. If the Utah Opera can do shows at all the local high schools, why can’t we?


SKONNARD: We can. They’re receptive to doing that. The harder issue is forcing change within the curriculum. But that inspires it. So I think that’s a fantastic idea.

The other thing we can do is work with the UTC. This is a perfect thing for them to tackle—to use their lobbying power to work with the state and school board. The school board is the one that really needs to be impacted by this.

WARNOCK: I don’t think changing the curriculum is the right answer. If you change the curriculum, it’s going to be harder to find the people that have the passion. The people that are going out and doing it on their own with this autodidact mentality, those are the people that you’re looking for. If you force everybody to do it in the curriculum, it’s more difficult to find those people.

LUMAN: We have to look at the curriculum in terms of where are the skills for tomorrow. It’s critical thinking. It’s engineering. It’s software. Those are the jobs of the future. If there’s the rogue mentality of I just learned some stuff, I’m going to go sit in a call center, then there’s going to be a lot of call center jobs but that’s about it.

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