Is IT's Future in the Hands of Parents?

By Eric Chabrow  |  Posted 10-19-2007

The No. 1 concern of CIOs since 1994 has been IT-business alignment. No more. Edging out alignment as the top concern among CIOs is attracting, developing and retaining business-technology professionals, according to the 2007 membership survey by the Society for Information Management.

Don't be surprised if finding and keeping IT pros remains atop the SIM list for a long time. The pool of potential IT pros won't grow if we depend on our schools to produce the next generation of business technologists. We have a literacy problem in the United States, especially in math and sciences, and that doesn't bode well for the IT profession. The U.S. ranks 24th out of 29 in math literacy among industrialized nations. We're as math literate as Latvia. "Literacy is the price of admission for competitiveness," said Judy Moog, national program director of the Verizon Foundation, at a recent Institute for a Competitive Workforce workshop. "America isn't succeeding fast enough."

Indeed, America needs to increase the number of math-and science-literate high school graduates to remain competitive on the world stage.

My son, Sam, could be an ideal recruit in the struggle to improve our global competitiveness. A high school senior, Sam maintains an A-minus average while taking mostly advance placement and honors courses. Sam loves math, and scored a 5—the top grade—in a calculus AP exam. He excels in courses that require analytical thinking. But Sam's deeper passion is composing classical music, and that's what he wants to study in college.

While many parents steer their kids toward college programs that promise relatively steady and lucrative careers, including those in IT management and computer sciences, my wife—a longtime IT professional— and I have been Sam's biggest champions in his pursuit of his passion, though we know that few people earn a good living composing classical music. The median annual salary of a classical music composer is $36,571, according to Pay.com. Sure, Sam realizes to make a decent salary he'll need to earn a doctorate and get a college professorship, yet there's no guarantee he can land a job in academia because of stiff competition.

In my blog, I asked readers if I'm failing as a parent by encouraging him to follow his dream. But a more global question is, are we failing society by not directing him toward a career where there's a shortage of much-needed brainpower?

The blog received scores of responses, split on whether Sam, my wife and I are following the right course. But, for the most part, the grander question, our responsibility to society, went unanswered. As parents, what are our responsibilities to our country by encouraging our children to enter professions that will strengthen our competitiveness in the world. Is asking Sam to sacrifice his personal dreams for the greater good of society appropriate?

What do you think? Share your thoughts by writing to letters@cioinsight.com.