The future of undersea technology holds endless possibilities for climate change solutions, defense strategies, and the global economy. But none of these opportunities, or other technology advancements, will be achieved without a robust, highly-skilled workforce that is ready to identify and solve future challenges. The tech industry must commit to being involved with developing the next generation workforce through strong and dedicated partnerships with K-12 and higher education institutions. A concerted effort needs to be focused on building a diverse future workforce that ensures opportunity for all, and that all communities are fully represented.
To meet these challenges, the tech industry needs skilled and committed professionals. Technical competence and critical thinking will be crucial for success in nationally and internationally competitive spaces like defense, cyber and information security, and ocean/undersea and global trade where significant opportunities and challenges lie.
Students preparing to graduate from high school have had to maneuver the COVID environment and will need help to prepare, both academically and socially, for the rigorous and challenging pace of the tech industry. Industry-focused intervention will help students understand expectations about job attainment and salary while continuing to enhance both their hard and soft skills. Academia will need to overcome challenges inherent to bureaucracies so that they can develop and maintain up-to-date curricula in real time that keeps pace with a rapidly changing environment.
Consistent collaboration between educational institutions and the tech industry will be critical to bridging that gap. Internships coordinated with schools and supported with investments by the public and private sector will provide students with realistic experiential learning experiences and practical workplace knowledge that will prepare them for the workforce.
The tech industry will also need to commit to a long-term partnership with K-12 and collegiate institutions — through classroom visits, club sponsorships, after school programs, adjunct faculty sharing and more. In pursuit of this vision, and to keep that commitment, the Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium recently announced an annual $25,000 scholarship program — just one of the strategies that must be part of the dedicated long-term commitment that will be required to succeed.
Our challenge is clear: to build a flexible, educated workforce that can continuously learn and adapt to the rapid changes and needs of the tech industry. By developing long-lasting, sustaining partnerships between industry and K-12 and higher education institutions, we can create a seamless, reliable pipeline of prepared students who are well-equipped to contribute to the workforce of the future.
Molly Magee is the executive director of Undersea Technology Innovation Consortium.