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[school-discuss] Re: Re: [IIEP] Retraining initiative

on Tue, May 10, 2005 at 06:29:54PM -0500, Tom Adelstein (tadelste@xxxxxxxxxxx) wrote:
> On Tue, 2005-05-10 at 13:34 -0700, Bill Kendrick wrote:
> > On Tue, May 10, 2005 at 12:39:24PM +0300, Teemu Leinonen wrote:

> > > I agree that the training should always explore different kind of
> > > (free/open source) technologies. I am afraid, that if the training
> > > is only about LAMP or Zope or any other specific (free/open or
> > > proprietary) technology the programmers will be again unemployed
> > > when the next (big) technology comes.
> > 
> > One way in which Open Source Software is different from the current and
> > previous "big" technologies is that it's open.  Due to its openness, and
> > its separation from "Company XYZ" who may go bankrupt or change
> > direction in 5 years, Open Source would seem to have a much longer
> > 'shelf-life' than some proprietary tools.

> Bill - your post is fine but does it address Teemu's concern?

IMO it does.  Speaking from my own experience, and a point I make
repeatedly:  the basic tools I use daily --  shell, editor, commandline
utilities, networking concepts, filesystem layout -- are largely
straight descendents of tools I first started using on Unix nearly 20
years ago.  The basics of 'vim' are largely same as vi, which itself
borrowed heavily from ex.  Some tools have been replaced (I use bash
rather than csh, ssh rather than telnet, mutt rather than 'mail'), some
have grown extensively over time (gawk vs. old awk).  And the changes
are largely incremental.

By contrast, "desktop" PCs at the time this journey started included the
Atari 64, TRS-80, IBM PC Jr, and Apple ][.  Server side's varied a tad,
with mainframes still in heavy rotation, though VMS, Acorn, and others,
have largely died out.

I realized in the early/mid 1990s which way things were headed, and
decided to hitch myself to technologies which _weren't_ tied to one
specific company's fortunes.  From a "keeping current with skills and
minimizing lossage / turnover" it's been a pretty good strategy.  Rarely
the top paying gigs, but generally speaking, marketable skills.
> I'm hearing numbers like 2.5 million tech jobs lost permanently. More
> jobs lost in IT than all jobs created since 2000. A large percentage
> of those jobs have 3-5 years of moss. 

What's "moss" in this context?

> We have a big pool of IT talent unemployed and we see headlines that
> students do not want to go into tech careers in college. So, we need
> "retraining" or "skill enhancement" or something.

A friend has seen a few runs in skills.  None of them "unskilled":

  - His university degree is petroleum engineering.

  - His programming chops were largely Smalltalk.

  - He's currently falling behind $500/mo just to stay alive, working
    for, as he puts it, "big river book company", in the Pacific
    northwest.  Does Java stuff for 'em.

He's among the more technically adept people I know.

When I was a kid, it was a family we knew, the husband had been in
highway construction (this as California's freeway boom ended), then got
into nuke plant constructions (which reminds me of all the nuclear
engineers I used to run into from UC Berkeley, hiking around in Marin)
-- again, just as *that* went out of favor.

Jobs which _have_ stayed reasonably lucrative over the years, if you're
good at it:  law, business, medicine, finance, real estate,
construction, trades.  Where part of it's knowing _things_, but a lot of
it's also knowing _people_, connections, making and keeping clients.

The idea that you can train yourself out of a job decline is IMO one of
the Big Lies of our age.  Business _loves_ workers it can fit into
slots.  When it takes 4-20 years to get slotted, instantly turning
around to something else doesn't work.

> I'm just throwing an idea around. What's wrong with curriculum that will
> focus on the hot IT topics to help people find jobs now and then
> curriculum growing as the landscape changes?

Wrong focus.

The number one skill necessary for using computers is reading.  And a
lot of kids aren't there.  Pretty much _all_ your interaction is just
that:  reading text on a screen.  And composing a reply.

Critical thinking would be a very near second.  Or first.  Depending.
But you're going to do a lot better at cultivating your CT skills
without being able to read.

Math and logic help.  Typing's a useful skill.

A general understanding of major computer components:  CPU, memory,
disk, peripherals.  This hasn't changed significantly since I started in
the late 1970s, it's just got much, much, much faster and bigger.

Beyond that, you're looking at specialization in areas.  

  - Are you principally a user?  Words, graphics, video, sound,
    multimedia, communications, ...

  - Programming?  Logic, control structures, data structures,
    abstraction, modularity, OO, ...

  - Administration?  Hardware, users, permissions, security, ....

At this point, you're teaching _concepts_, not necessarially _skills_,
with a shelf life of decades.

> I don't see open source technology solving this problem but I'm
> willing to listen. IMHO, this shift in employment trends transcends
> the open vs proprietary argument.

Not _entirely_ sure where you're headed with this, though I suspect


Karsten M. Self <kmself@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    The laundry room at my college has ethernet.
    - aaronl

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