Guest blog by Hanna Lindstrom: are we preparing students enough for internet-related jobs?

I received this guest blog by Hanna Lindstrom and I think it’s a good starting point for debate. What do you think?

According to Internet World Stats, the number of worldwide Internet users increased by 528.1 percent from 2000 to 2011, and this is something that has caught the attention of both businesses and those wanting a career as a school administrator. The Internet currently constitutes the fastest-growing marketplace in the world. Bearing this in mind, it would seem logical that educational institutions would try to prepare students for Internet-related jobs, giving them the tools they need to be competitive in this ever-growing sector. However, in many ways, educational institutions are not adequately preparing students. In fact, those students who end up becoming Web entrepreneurs tend to do so by taking control of their own education rather than by relying on the establishment. It is the responsibility of educational leadership to adapt methods, materials, and systems of education to help create more Web entrepreneurs and Web-friendly professionals.

One way in which educational institutions can help prepare their students a future full of Internet technology is by teaching them coding. Professionals who are skilled in coding languages such as Java, HTML, Python, and Perl are in high demand in many companies. Students who learn these languages can compete for many of the market’s highest paying jobs. Critics argue that technological developments occur so quickly that any language a student may learn would only become obsolete in a few years. Even if this is true, the studies still prepare students by teaching them the basic concepts behind coding and giving them experience. Also, many coding languages do not go away — they simply get updated. HTML, for example, has been around in some form since 1991. While it keeps undergoing revisions and improvements, the basic concepts remain constant.

Another very important skill that schools can teach their students is search engine optimization, or SEO. SEO is important because it is the way by which search engines such as Google and Bing decide which pages come up as the top results. Properly optimized pages appear at the beginning of keyed search results. Highly-placed positions are comparable to valuable real estate in traditional commerce. Those who understand SEO know how to get their Web pages — and those of their clients — noticed by Web surfers, and this valuable skill can result in many business and job opportunities. Internet marketing is a fast-growing field. 

Social media marketing is also a growing field. With the advent of social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Foursquare, and Pinterest, companies are faced with the prospect of being able to find and engage consumers and clients in new and highly effective ways. However, most educational institutions lack social media-intensive courses. Those who know how to take advantage of these venues often find themselves with a market edge. Creating corporate Facebook pages, posting relevant YouTube videos, and reaching out to potential customers through engaging Twitter feeds can open up entirely new channels of communication, and can drum up business in very efficient ways.

The principal purpose of educational institutions is to prepare students for the professional world by giving them marketable skills. For this reason, it is the responsibility of educational institutions everywhere — secondary and postsecondary alike — to do more to prepare students to compete in the Internet marketplace. Even when students’ primary skills are more traditional things such as writing or visual design, by learning Internet-specific skills, they can become more competitive in the very space where all of the action is occurring. Looking forward, most jobs will have some sort of Internet component even if they are far outside the realms of web design and marketing. Schools must take note if our students are to be equipped for life in a truly global landscape.

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