From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
Anyone who has applied for a job in the last couple of years is well aware that you will be paid more if you have technology skills.
The highest demand is for what is known as the STEM workforce. That stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
Whether unemployment is going up or down, the demand is always strong for employees with a background in a STEM curriculum.
It used to be that you needed a bachelor’s degree to qualify as a STEM worker.
However, the National Science Foundation has changed its definition, expanding it to include people who do not have a bachelor’s degree.
This new approach recognizes that a strong background in technology is necessary nowadays in all kinds of jobs, up and down the spectrum.
The legislature, technical schools and institutions of higher education are working to stay ahead of this trend.
Public schools are offering more computer coding classes. The state Department of Education is making it easier for teachers to become certified in computer sciences.
Two-year colleges are designing new curricula after seeking input from local employers, manufacturers and high-tech companies.
Adult education programs and job training offer certificates to students who focus on communications and information technology.
Here’s the payoff: the average salary for jobs in IT and computer systems is about $91,000. For all other jobs the average salary is about $42,000. That’s according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
When I was in school, training for a technical career meant learning to be an automobile or diesel mechanic, an electrician or a repairman specializing in refrigeration and air conditioning.
A manufacturing job meant working on an assembly line.
Now, high school students are learning about artificial intelligence and how machines think. They’re learning to build robots. They’re not just learning how to operate computers, they’re learning how to program computers.
Arkansas schools now teach cybersecurity and networking, or how to transmit and work with enormous amounts of data.
Education has come a long way since the days of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Now, educators talk about the four C’s of the 21st century --communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
It’s an exciting new world, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.