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OIT reaches out to community to share STEM career options - Telephony News
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OIT reaches out to community to share STEM career options

Over the past several weeks, Office of Information Technology staff have spent time talking to high school students about careers in IT, which OIT said are more accessible than some students realize.

“We’re hoping to break the stereotype of ‘the IT guy.’ Why can’t it be ‘the IT woman?’ Or ‘the IT girl.’ I think it’s a pretty big stereotype IT roles are done by men,” Systems Engineer II Levi Cunningham said.

Last year, OIT created several diversity and inclusion goals for the department. One major goal was to talk to the students of local school districts about STEM and IT opportunities.

A group of about five OIT staff members volunteered to go to rural school districts around the Athens campus, including Federal Hocking, Alexander, Vinton County and Logan schools, to educate students in demographics that typically do not pursue STEM careers. OIT gives these students information related to the STEM careers that are available, especially focusing on IT.

“A lot of these students live far enough out in the country that they don’t have cell phone service. So, when they go home, they’re on an island,” Cunningham, a Federal Hocking alumnus, said. “They have no way to research this stuff, or talk to anyone about this stuff, except for when they’re in school. But when they’re in school, the rural districts, since they don’t have as many resources… they don’t really have people who specialize in IT-related classes.”

At Vinton County, OIT attended a career fair in early November, where team members set up a table to present potential STEM careers. On Friday, Nov. 18, OIT traveled to Federal Hocking to give presentations to students who wanted to learn about career options in IT. OIT spoke about product development from start to finish, using OHIO’s esports arena creation as an example, to illustrate that in addition to technical roles, there are also crucial non-technical roles in IT such as project managers, business analysts, and change managers.

OIT wants students interested in IT to understand they do not necessarily need to go to college for a STEM or technical degree because of the non-technical roles also available. The various other local employers attending these career fairs, including the military and the Welders Association, can employ students without a college degree. So, OIT wanted to inform students there are lots of entry-level jobs in IT, too.

“This topic has been a personal interest of mine pretty much since I’ve been working… I was where these high school students were 12 years ago now,” Cunningham said. “I was like, ‘What do I want to do? I want to work in technology but what options are there for me? And what options are there for me around the area?’”

Cunningham said Southeastern Ohio isn’t largest area for jobs, especially technology jobs.

“Our goal in OIT is giving these students the information to let them know, ‘Hey, this is an option for you,’ if this is something that you are interested in. And especially now that COVID has happened and work from home is a lot more common, you don’t have to leave,” he said. “That was a big thing I heard a lot when I was getting ready to graduate high school, or just freshly working… That if you want a good-paying job, and you’re from Athens, you have to leave.”

Several other members of the OIT initiative group are also from the rural area surrounding the University.

“The people trying to get this message out there are people that are from here, and they know that this is a knowledge gap in a lot of these rural school districts,” Cunningham said.

OIT volunteers are also offering to serve as resources to answer questions and give overviews of what both technical and non-technical roles look like in their day-to-day jobs.

“What we wanted to do is showcase how versatile it can be, and how IT jobs require a lot of very different skills… We were trying to break the stigma that IT is only fixing networks and fixing computers,” said Eszti Major-Rohrer, enterprise learning system manager of the technology team.

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