Mark Diehl
Director of Information and Technology Services
Little Falls Community Schools

Imagine you are asked, “How old is your IT equipment?”

What is your response? My guess is that you are thinking about the age of the computers issued to district staff or how long it has been since you issued new devices to students.

In recent years, districts have placed a huge emphasis on computer technology and the development of skills that allow students to communicate, create, collaborate, and think critically. The challenge for teachers has always been how to apply that teaching and learning to real world contexts that interest and engage students.

As educators, a common message delivered to students the last couple of decades has been centered upon the need to go to college in order to be successful. Success has been based not on students’ interests and passions but rather on how much money they can make with a college degree. As the cost of a college degree has risen, we have students saddled with increasing levels of student debt and a job market not fit for their knowledge set.

Labor statistics continue to point to a shortage of skilled labor. Students are not entering the trades quick enough to meet the growing needs of the industry. The responsibility for districts is to help students understand the opportunities that are available in the trades, manufacturing, business, and education fields.

Let’s revisit the original question. How old is your IT (industrial technology) equipment?

Unless your district has just opened a new school in the last few years, that question may be rather difficult to answer.

District leadership should be positioned to help address the existing and growing labor shortage in the skilled areas of the economy. Solving the problem will not be a simple process. The solution will require communication, collaboration, creativity, and most importantly, resources.

Auditing the age and condition of the industrial technology equipment in your district is one of the first steps. How old is your equipment? Is it still in a safe working condition? Would the equipment be found in use at a local business or industry?

Developing an understanding of what equipment is being used by the local industry and businesses is an important next step. Schedule visits to the local businesses to learn about their products and services. The visit will help determine what types of equipment and skills the students need for workplace preparation. Information learned from these visits can also be helpful when communicating with students, parents, and the community about the career opportunities that are locally available.

Through the visits with local business, the opportunities for collaboration will become apparent. These collaborations can take on a variety of forms. If both parties look at the collaboration as a means to help each other be successful, then a strong creative partnership can be formed.

Investing in capital resources both human and financial will be needed to help provide students with the equipment and the skill development that they will need to be prepared for a successful future.

The time has come to shift the mindset about information technology equipment to go beyond laptops, Chromebooks, iPads and look at the industrial information technology as well. The potential for modern industrial information technology equipment to be found in the shop areas is just as valuable as the information technology equipment in the academic areas.

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