Job development: in today’s rapidly growing technology sector, it’s more important than ever. Between the co-op technology grant from BCIC and the twelve million dollars in federal funding dedicated to increasing co-op opportunities in STEM fields, we have our work cut out for us. But what if our students aren’t in STEM programs? How can they position themselves to compete in this evolving and expanding field?
Students without specific technological experience still have a wealth of skill, knowledge, and computing proficiency to bring to the table. The rapid change and advancement of the tech field means programming and software languages become outdated quickly, leading to a demand for resiliency and on-the-ground learning. These so-called soft skills are cultivated in a broad spectrum of disciplines, and when students from diverse backgrounds come together in the workplace, creativity abounds.
When exploring potential employment for students with technology organizations, consider the range of skills and competencies students from a variety of non-technical programs can offer:
- Communication skills: Students in humanities, social sciences, and education programs can take complex ideas and break them down into common language for shareholders, investors, and clients. They can digest complex technical ideas and present them clearly.
- Critical thinking: Cross-disciplinary programs teach students to investigate problems from multiple perspectives and apply ideas across varied contexts. The impact? Effective problem-solving, creativity, stimulation, and initiative in the workplace.
- Adaptability: In any organization, there are a variety of tasks that need to be done, including communications, marketing, finance, and much more. Students with education from a range of programs can move comfortably from technical to non-technical tasks and take on a diverse range of duties—a particularly valuable skill in the start-up sector.
- Information synthesis: Programs with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing produce students adept at synthesizing large volumes of information quickly, collecting and analyzing data, and bringing clarity to complex concepts. Now that rapid information transfer is obligatory rather than optional, the ability to synthesize large quantities of data is paramount.
- Diversity: Students from blended disciplines bring different ideas to the workplace, generating creative synergy within an organization. Technology thrives on fresh ideas, so recruiting students from diversified backgrounds is akin to inviting innovation.
From front lines to store lines, people are the core of technology development, which makes employees with interpersonal skills a linchpin in doing business. With our coaching hats on, we can offer our students a competitive edge by encouraging them to enroll in elective technical courses, learn new software or programming languages, and expand their skills in new and social media. Paired with some technical knowledge, the desire to learn and communicate can set students apart from the competition.
Sure, job development in this sector might be more straightforward when our students are completing a technical degree. Tech employers will always require students with the hard skills to design, program, and develop the technical tools of our future. Then again, perhaps these tangible skills will soon be recognized as only one part of a critical combination. Perhaps we can facilitate the inevitable shift in how employers think about communication, critical thinking, and initiative taking. Perhaps finding new ways to articulate this hidden talent and untapped potential will mean there’s a tech company in your list of prospects with whom a co-op placement is only a conversation away.