Creating pathways to future success

Posted on Oct 29, 2019 :: Standing Feature
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Posted by By Kim Iversen, NEW IT Alliance

This issue marks the first anniversary of the launch of Insight on Technology. During that time, the publication has grown in size and won first place in a national competition: a Gold Award from the Alliance of Area Business Publications. Congratulations to everyone who has worked on or supported this publication, which has shined a light on the need for more IT professionals in the region as well as the technology issues businesses and industries deal with on a daily basis.

Technology is no longer confined to the realm of IT departments and mainframe programmers. More and more, technology is moving out of the IT department and into all aspects of business. Nothing proves this more than the digitalization of agriculture. Today’s farmers are leveraging bovine equivalents of Fitbits on their dairy cattle to help track illness, milk production and fertility. In the fields, soil probes provide data about how much water, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to drop into each square foot of soil. As technology provides increasing amounts of data for farmers to sift through, they need to understand how to read the data and pull out the information it provides. In short, they need to become data analysts.

Many companies in Northeast Wisconsin are looking to hire data analysts, with several companies looking to build out internal data analytics teams focused on deriving value from the reams of data they collect. Over the past three months, the NEW IT Alliance has had conversations with five companies that are looking to hire roughly 20 data analysts between them. Two- and four-year colleges within the region, and across the state, are working on programs and certifications to help upskill the talent employers need in this field. A recent Glassdoor study of highest-paying jobs for new 2019 graduates puts data scientist at the top of the list with a $95,000 starting salary for an entry level position.

Not only are colleges developing programs to help fill the data analyst gap, but the Department of Public Instruction also has been developing IT career pathways, which will be implemented in high schools across Wisconsin. One IT pathway focuses on data careers, including data analyst. Other IT pathways include project manager/business analyst, programmer/software developer, network and systems infrastructure, and cybersecurity.

The pathways are designed to help students see how they can move from where they are today into a career in their chosen field. They outline classes and experiences in which they can participate in high school and which collegiate programs will prepare them for a career in the field.

On Nov. 21 at the NEW Connect IT event, high school students from across the region will have the opportunity to connect with local employers and IT professionals to learn about IT careers. Informational sessions will also be offered to employers that would like to learn more about how they can connect with students looking for opportunities to work in an IT department.

Kim Iversen,
Director, NEW IT Alliance