Pike Teachers Go Back to Class for Inaugural Teacher TechConnect Event

INDIANAPOLIS, November 10, 2016 – Teachers help children decide their career paths long before either is focused on it by recognizing aptitudes and encouraging them to focus their studies accordingly. But, if the teachers don’t know the array of career possibilities, it’s impossible for them to give every student the best guidance possible. Local tech leaders’ worry over this issue has led to the creation of a new Indianapolis initiative – Teacher TechConnect.

“Only by working together can businesses and educators solve the technology talent gap problem,” said Jeff Ton, Bluelock executive vice president of Product and Service Development. “The Teacher TechConnect collaboration breaks down the wall between business and the classroom and creates an ongoing, mutually beneficial conversation to fill the talent pipeline with qualified candidates.”  

From 2009 to mid-2015, the U.S. high-tech software and services job sector outpaced all other sectors, growing by more than 730,000 jobs, or 34.4 percent, according to a 2016 CBRE Research survey. Central Indiana ranked 8th in terms of this job growth, at 18 percent.

Indiana workforce experts predict demand for tech employees will continue to exceed supply. The region is projected to add at least 51,500 tech jobs by 2025, but schools are slated to produce only half of the needed credentials and degrees to fill those jobs. At the elementary and secondary school level, technology jobs are currently being created faster than they can be integrated into school curricula. Workforce experts say 65 percent of today’s schoolchildren will be employed in jobs that have yet to be created. Many of these jobs will be in the technology sector.

Ton said it wasn’t difficult for Bluelock, a disaster recovery services provider, to find partners for Teacher TechConnect. Angie’s List, TechPoint Foundation for Youth, Pike High School and others were quick to sign on for the event, as well as assist in execution, as the initiative will subsequently benefit employers throughout the state.

Joe Hand of Interactive Intelligence, former Mayor Greg Ballard, and Warren Lenard of Finish Line were three of the panelists.

Joe Hand of Interactive Intelligence, former Mayor Greg Ballard, and Warren Lenard of Finish Line were three of the panelists.

“We’ve seen a huge shift from the days when I was in school and jobs with a math, science or computer-focus seemed to be for the guys,” said Robin Fleming, Angie’s List senior vice president of Technology. “One problem we’re facing now in the tech industry is that tech is viewed as a place mostly for coders. Many companies need to fill tech jobs that call for broader skills – UX design, data management experts, DevOps, product management, agile scrum masters, technical project managers and more, so we need to make sure teachers and students know that.”

Nathanial Jones, superintendent of the Metropolitan School District of Pike Township, said he was eager for Pike High School to be the initiative’s first setting and predicted other area schools will want to hold their own Teacher TechConnect gatherings.

“Teachers want to help their students reach their potential, regardless of whether it’s a tech or a non-tech future,” he said. “Our staff was quick to embrace this opportunity to expand their knowledge base and we were thrilled to be able to make it happen for them.”

Teachers from Pike Township enjoyed an appetizer buffet at the event before the panelists began speaking.

Teachers from Pike Township enjoyed an appetizer buffet at the event before the panelists began speaking.

Dozens of teachers from Pike elementary and secondary schools joined tech company and community leaders for the three-hour event at the Pike High School cafeteria. Teachers who want to dive deeper into tech were invited to enroll in a shadow program that will bring teachers in for a day at local tech companies so they get a closer look at what goes on inside those innovative walls.

TechPoint Foundation for Youth, a nonprofit focused on increasing access to STEM learning opportunities for K-12 students, will house a Teacher TechConnect resource page to connect teachers to opportunities for themselves and their students.

“Central Indiana is rightly being seen as a tech hub, but we have to act now to ensure Hoosiers will be the ones filling the jobs that come along with this emergence of tech companies,” said former Mayor Greg Ballard, who took part. “The array of jobs is staggering – everything from the technical things like coding and software development to soft skills that focus on sales, project management and communicating with others about what these products and tech advances mean.”

Karen Jung, president of Nextech, a nonprofit focused on bringing tech into school classrooms, said teachers are interested in adjusting their curriculum but want to know more about what the companies’ workforces actually do. Nextech will offer a summer course for teachers this summer in addition to a course for students to learn.

“We hope our efforts will include curriculum additions that any school can adopt, even in the elementary schools,” Jung said.

Among the leaders taking part:

  • Greg Ballard, former Mayor of Indianapolis and University of Indianapolis Visiting Fellow of the Institute for Civic Leadership & Mayoral Archive
  • Laura Dodds, TechPoint Foundation for Youth executive director

  • Robin Fleming, Angie’s List SVP of Technology and Women & High Tech board member

  • Joe Hand, Interactive Intelligence senior practice leader of Global Managed Services

  • Karen Jung, Nextech President

  • Warren Lenard, The Finish Line VP, Technology & Operations Solutions

  • Dewand Neely, State of Indiana CIO

  • Valerie Osinski, Project Lead the Way SVP and CTO

  • Jeff Ton, Bluelock EVP of Product and Service Development

  • Rhonda Winter, Bluelock EVP of Cloud Operations and Support