Starting On a Tech Career Pathway in High School

Assessment offers a solution to the tech workforce shortfall.
Sep 19, 2023
WYWM Social Impact Lead, Cia Kouparitsas says there are many paths to a tech career.

Tech jobs are surging, which is good, the problem is a shortage of quality, skilled, workers to fill those jobs.

The shortfall in tech workers is a cause for concern and part of a solution might be to start identifying students with particular aptitudes in the very wide and varied tech field during high school.

WithYouWithMe’s (WYWM) assessment suite tests a person's aptitude and learning preference to identify the skills they’ll excel at and matches them to high-demand tech careers. They’re evidence-based assessments which are backed by a wide body of scientific research into personality, aptitude and intelligence.

Some of the tech industry’s leading employers are already on board, from the Australian Government, through to big commercials like BAE Systems and Fujitsu.

WYWM Social Impact Lead, Cia Kouparitsas says, “Our platform’s unique algorithm analyses results to provide a repeatable, data-led approach to measuring a person’s suitability to a given role. Drawing on globally recognised aptitude research and psychometric testing approaches like DISC and Big 5, the tests reveal insights on human capability and help students understand where their natural strengths lie.”

In particular, the aptitude assessment measures cognitive ability and problem-solving skills as well as propensity to learn and apply new skills. Built in consultation with a professor from the University of Sydney, the proprietary Computerised Adaptive Test within the platform adapts to each person’s ability as they progress, so every testing experience is unique.

The assessment identifies potential across key areas including abstract reasoning, digit symbol coding, written language comprehension, numerical reasoning, recognition memory, spatial reasoning and verbal reasoning.

These areas provide highly valuable insights into how someone may be naturally wired for a career in tech. For example, those with strong language comprehension and digit symbol coding would easily pick up the required skills for coding.

Through WYWM’s program, students have access to hundreds of hours of self-paced online learning across areas including cyber, digital project management and data analytics, right through to software development, automation and service desk. Once they’ve completed courses, they’ll receive certification which is globally recognised by the American National Standards Board.

“Essentially it means they will have everything required to step into an entry-level tech role, at no cost to them,” says Kouparitsas.

“We help students find a career they would naturally excel at, we provide them with the training to make them proficient, then we work with our network of employers to place them into an entry-level role.

“We’re all familiar with the traditional apprenticeship model - for example a builder or a plumber undergoing training while they receive practical work experience for an entry-level role. A tech apprenticeship is no different, providing young people - who may not have tech backgrounds - with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, learn in-demand skills, and contribute meaningfully to their employers' success,” she says.

Students have indicated that they like the program and the clear definition of a pathway to employment.

“The response has been really positive, with the testing aspect of the program particularly resonating with students. We’ve received feedback from students around how difficult it is to answer the question of what to do when they leave school. Regardless of whether students choose to pursue a career in tech or not, this program has been valuable in helping them understand where their strengths lie or what their learning preference may be.

“It’s also been used by some of the schools to support their year 10 students to select subjects for years 11 and 12. For students, it provides them with data-points to make these important decisions that could shape the rest of their lives,” Kouparitsas says.

There are many paths into a tech career - and it’s important that students understand that university isn’t the only option. Many in-demand tech roles can be performed with as little as 150 hours of training. This program seeks to help students firstly consider that they may be a great fit for a tech career, but also give them an alternative career path.

“More broadly, we’re starting to see a shift towards employers valuing skills-based qualifications over degrees. In technology, degrees are very useful for some roles, but it’s more important to know if someone can perform the practical aspects of the job. Employers today are struggling to solve their recruitment needs while maintaining their traditional job prerequisites, like degrees.

“Often those who are fresh out of university may lack many of the skills candidates who have undertaken practical ‘skills based’ programs have. It’s for this reason that our training is also popular with university students who are looking to diversify their traditional education with practical skills to make them more competitive in the workforce.”

Most jobs require a level of digital proficiency, and in the current employment landscape - where a shortage of digital capabilities is impacting practically every sector - meaningful careers can be built solely on developing digital skills.

“Unfortunately, the narrative that describes these careers is failing to engage young Australians - who represent our future workforce - to pursue digital roles. The NSW Schools Digital Careers Trial was designed to inspire high school students to consider a tech career and develop digital skills - as a means of ultimately addressing gaps in the nation’s workforce,” she says.

From an outcomes perspective, WYWM looking to do a few things; raise awareness about the importance of digital skills amongst students and educators; test the supposition that educating students about their prospects will increase their interest in pursuing digital careers; determine if personalised aptitude insights make students more likely to consider digital careers; explore how educators, industry and government can collaborate to deliver local programs; and, assess the viability of a scalable model for communicating the value of and building digital skills across all secondary schools.

In Australia, the areas that are seeing the highest demand for workers are:
●    Cybersecurity: The increasing frequency and sophistication of cyber threats has seen a jump in demand for cybersecurity professionals. This includes roles such as cybersecurity analysts, penetration testers, and security consultants.
●    Data Analytics: The demand for data scientists, data analysts, and business intelligence analysts has remained high. It’s also a skill that’s in demand across a lot of non-technical roles. If you have data analysis skills, you increase your value for many operational-based roles as well, including customer service, sales and marketing.
●    Software Development and Engineering: Skilled software developers, particularly those with expertise in languages like Python, JavaScript, and Java, continue to be in demand as organisations digitally transform. Full-stack developers and software engineers are also highly sought after.
●    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): As AI and ML applications expand across various industries, the need for specialists in these fields, including machine learning engineers and AI researchers, has been growing substantially.