Whenever we write about IT careers, we hear from people disillusioned with the profession. Those heading into a tech career should do so with their eyes wide open: It's fascinating because it's always changing, but it means a lifetime of learning. Here's one person's story of frustration:
I started out wanting to work with electronics back when I was about 12. I got my first computer (a Commodore 64), I played games on it for a couple of weeks, then I found the books on it and started to learn about programming. It helped that after six weeks of playing around with sample code, my school changed me into a computer class. During the next 10 years, however, I learned little to nothing new about computers as my family was not rich, and I didn't get any encouragement. I dropped out of high school and got my GED. I started saving some cash for a college education, but I settled for an electronics course at a local voc-tech school. This was a good thing as I still love electronics, but it's not an electronics degree. The few companies hiring wanted a degree.
So I ended up working for myself, doing small contract jobs. I got a break and went to work as a tech support rep for a big computer company. I loved the job but overheard one day that there were no promotions unless you had a degree. I formulated a plan to stop working for two years and head back to college, at 28 years old, with a federal loan and Pell grant. But near the end of the first year, I ended up in the hospital with no insurance, which ate up my savings, and I missed two weeks of class and a couple of finals. I needed those credits to keep the grants and loans, and I ended up losing my enrollment.
So I'm now working for a hospital installing antivirus software on new computers and doing an occasional OS reinstall, making close to $10 an hour after 10 years of working with computers. I'm 32, have no savings, with an old car that keeps breaking, and I'm still renting a trailer. The company will reimburse tuition, but the classes I need are during the day, and I don't have the money to pay for them up front.
So to sum up, I'd say the reason for the tech workforce lag is that, with so much new coming out so often, why would you want to learn something that's obsolete at graduation? It would be nice to know that there are companies willing to hire people and train them like they used to. I guarantee if a company would send me to college and let me work for them, too, I'd be more than willing to work my heart out and stick with that company. But I fear I will never see that day.
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