Despite the recent economic slowdown, projections for long-term job growth in Silicon Valley remain quite strong. Drawing primarily on a survey of more than 2,500 8th- and 11th-graders in public and private Silicon Valley schools, A.T. Kearney examined technology acclimation among area students in order to gauge the linkage between today’s students and future technology careers. The following are some of the key ﬁndings:
- Computer access and usage are very high among Silicon Valley students. Ninety-nine percent of students have access at some location (home, school, friend’s home, library, etc.), although Hispanic students and students from lower-income families are less likely to have home access to computers. Ninety-one percent of students reported using computers for both educational andentertainment purposes.
- Although 73 percent of students reported having some familiarity with at least two high-tech occupations, student awareness of high-tech careers lags behind their awareness of more traditional professions.
- There is a considerable drop-off between student awareness of high-tech careers and student interest in these careers, with 32 percent of students planning to pursue technology- or computer- related careers. Students offered various reasons for not wishing to pursue high-tech careers, such as that they found such careers uninteresting or intimidating, they disliked computers, or they had other interests.
- More than three-quarters (82 percent) of the students plan to pursue some type of postsecondary education (four-year college, two-year college or vocational program). However, the proportion of Hispanic students planning to attend four-year college speciﬁcally(53 percent) is signiﬁcantly lower than that of Asian (74 percent), African American (69 percent) and White students (69 percent). This suggests that Hispanic students are less likely than their peers to obtain the type of postsecondary training required for the region’s higher-paying jobs.
- There is a gender gap with regard to student awareness of and interest in technology careers, with females being only about half as likely as males (23 percent vs. 42 percent) to report wanting to pursue a high-tech career.
The survey of Silicon Valley students also showed the considerable inﬂuence that students’ social networks have on their career interests and on their access to career information and guidance. For instance, students whose parents both are in high-tech professions are more likely to be interested in technology careers. In addition, more than three-quarters (83 percent) of students obtain job and career information through family and friends, although students from lower socioeconomic back- grounds are far less likely to rely on personal relationships for this information. Sixty-six percent of students obtain career information from the mass media, a source that—according to outside research— generally presents unﬂattering and unrealistic images of technology workers.
These ﬁndings point to a broad range of challenges that Silicon Valley must address, such as providing students with accurate information about technology careers, ensuring that students from all back- grounds have the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly knowledge-based economy and expanding the types of social networks that foster career advancement. Based on these ﬁndings, Joint Venture puts forth a Call for Discussionto all Silicon Valley stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, business leaders, community organizations and public ofﬁcials. This year, Joint Venture will bring these stakeholders together to work toward the full development of the region’s “homegrown” talent and widespread opportunity for all of our youth.