21st Century Skill Set.

Note: This post was published originally on The SkyPilot Project Blog, on January 25th 2010. It has been updated to reflect changes that have happened since it was first published.

We live in the future, and It is awesome! However being a member of 21st Century means that a whole new skill set is required. That skill set isn’t much different from when we changed from an agricultural economy to an Industrial one during the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th Century. We are in the midst of a Technological Revolution. We are and have been since the mid-20th century with the invention of the 1st electronic computer in 1941 with Zuse Z3 which was invented in Germany.

With the first introduction of the business workstation from IBM in the mid to late 1950’s. The need for workers with computer skills was starting to develop in the workplace. As the computer became more common in the workplace it was starting to make it’s way into the home. With the introduction of the Apple I in 1976 and then with the Apple II in 1977. Then in the mid 1980’s a small upstart of of a software company by the name of Microsoft with the introduction of Windows 1.1.

Fast forward a decade and Microsoft is introducing Windows 95 and the fast track of the computer has been going strong and only getting stronger and faster. There is Microsoft Office which is used in about 95% of the office sector. With that 95% having taken classes and getting certifications, and only becoming more valuable as an employee with each new tech related skill that they learn.

One of the biggest issues that Low-income families and individuals have, is a lack of access to the education and to the technology. Most Low-Income Children don’t have access to the most up-to-date technology or programs. With the current public school system the technology they are exposed to is limited, so the skills they should be developing are also limited. A large percentage don’t know how the technology works or how they can use the technology that is out there to be a more successful student.

It is the lack of technical skills that keep Low-Income individuals from getting higher paying jobs that would provide the income that would make paying the gas bill, or the cable bill just that much easier. Income that would pay for daycare or pay for that little bit of extra food that could make the difference in a hungry child or a child that can’t think about their class assignments because of the growling stomach that keeps distracting them from adding 2 plus 2

The more exposure that people have to technology the more comfortable people become. There are a lot of Low-Income families that have computers that are still running Windows 98 or Windows 2000. If you were to put 80% of Low-Income Individuals in front of a PC running Windows Vista. 40% of them wouldn’t know that the start button has changed from a rectangle to a circle. Being competent, and learning to become competent with a computer is vital part, or should be a vital part to the educational experiance of all students. According to Pew Research, as of February of last year 72% of American Adults have a smartphone. Apps that help students do their assignments are becoming more prevalent, as the market starts it shift from the consumer marketplace to the business and educational sectors. So it would only be logical that skills training be more focused on technology competency when training low-income individuals for the workplace.

If you want to have more people working and less people on welfare, then the training will have to be better, and the focus will have to be on skill sets that people entering or even reentering the workforce can use. There has to be a focused effort on making technology less intimidating, and an effort has to be made to make it even more user friendly than it is now.

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