Columbia, S.C. – The insurance industry seems keenly aware of the growing shortage of IT talent—so much so that it’s finding unique ways to attract an age group ripe for the picking: high schoolers.

High-achieving students from high schools in the Columbia area developed their computer skills with some hands-on laptop building last weekend at the first-ever High Performance Information Technology Camp, the first of several events planned at the University of South Carolina (USC).

Offered jointly by the Columbia Insurance Technology Consortium (CITC) and the Technology Support and Training Management Program (TSTM) at USC’s College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management, the camp offered 20 high school sophomores and juniors the opportunity to assemble laptop computers and learn about careers in information technology during the camp. The students received in-depth instruction about computer networking, database systems, corporate training and development, and end-user support. And, as one of the many benefits of the camp, the students were allowed to keep their computers once assembled.

The need for incoming talent is a growing one. As reported by INN in February, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 1 million IT jobs will be unfilled by 2012, chiefly because there is not enough qualified, trained human capital to fill them.

“We are calling it a general IT workforce development crisis,” says Robert Horton, coordinator of the management computer systems program for the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater.  “Largely a reaction to the setbacks associated with careers that crashed during the dot.com bust, the myths that IT careers are not ‘creative,’ and the fear that jobs are vulnerable to outsourcing, parents and counselors are advising kids not to choose computer science.”

Goals of the camp included developing students’ interest in information technology, teaching key IT concepts and allowing students to familiarize themselves with a university campus. As part of the recruitment process, the camp also offered some social “downtime.”

“We are creating this camp to excite high school students about computer technology majors in college that lead to rewarding careers,” says Bob Brookshire, director of USC’s Technology Support and Training Management Program. “Employers anticipate a huge need for new technology professionals as their current employees retire.”

Students received training on computer architecture, application development, large- scale computing and other concepts. Follow-up sessions are planned, including one on installing game-development systems, to enhance development and retention.
Future campers will tour university facilities, attend a USC basketball game and spend time with university professors.

To be considered for the camp, students must attend a high school in Richland or Lexington counties, fill out an application and submit a letter of reference from a teacher. Students also must submit a 500-word essay explaining, “In what ways do you think the technology industry will grow in the next five to 10 years, and what will that mean for a career in IT?”

TSTM graduates have a diverse IT background, and have obtained positions in various organizations ranging from network administrator to database administrator to director of information technologies.

Source:  Columbia Insurance Technology Consortium (CITC), INN archives

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