I often think about how and where one lands in life professionally. How fascinating and wondrous to look at an infant or child and try to imagine what that young person's interests, abilities, environmental exposure and formation will lead to later in life. Bailiff, avionics technician, editor, geographer... you just cannot dream all the factors and experiences that will lead to a person's occupational and professional destiny - wish as you may.

We all find our way, by design or by tripping over it.

I think about people who grew up in occupationally homogeneous families where a majority of members are doctor, restaurateur, farmer or firefighter. The culture of these occupations that one lives and breathes what they do pervades family life and has a heavy influence on children. The likelihood a child would gain some influence in their occupational choice must be higher in these cases, after all why are so many people in the family in the same industry?

On the other hand, occupations of the what happens at work stays at work kind like store clerk, skilled trades, food inspector, or actuary (of course there are exceptions to almost everything, these are examples not scientific properties) probably aren't as contagious, likely to be as much a part of a child's upbringing or have such an impact. Children who do not have the influence of infiltrative careers in the lives of their family members might also have more random career outcomes.

Positive influence can also come in other forms.

When NEPA BlogCon decided to create an opportunity for girls grades 4-6 to learn the fundamentals of computer programming, it was an engineered conscious purposeful effort to do something to help minimize the gender gap of women in tech careers. Since there are so few women in this sector, not many girls have women role models to talk shop with, go to work with, and be influenced by. We didn't invent the occupational camp concept, there are tech camps for kids around the country - and a few in our region. We did bring the age down from high school and middle school to grade school age, and let girls discover, focus, experiment and have fun, in a non-competitive all girl environment, without having to feel awkward, or be teased or taunted by boys (we know from experience they have plenty of other opportunities for that).

The sixteen girls who attended Squirrel Girls Tech Camp worked alone, in small groups and as a large group very well. They were collegial, involved and enthralled. Not one girl fell asleep, said she was bored or wanted to go home, pulled a doll out of her backpack to play, or got into an argument or fight.

At camp

The feedback was heart wrenching, in a good way.

Can we stay, do we have to go home, can we come back next week, why can't school be like this, why aren't we learning this in school, are we doing this again next summer? Question after question like this.... All week.

This was not inventing the wheel, labor intensive or resource draining. This was:

  • Identify appropriate free web based resources and create a curriculum.
  • Recruit others who also care about the future of girls in tech careers.
  • Talk to a college about using the computer lab and a classroom.
  • Create registration and use social media to announce it.
  • Show up and have fun while teaching and learning.

The cash investment was under $100 per child for the week and included a 16-week subscription to an Internet based age appropriate programming course to build on the fundamentals they learned during camp, the rest of the summer. Of course, there is no expectation all the campers will go to college for programming, it wasn't Stepford Wives Camp. But we do know this experience left what will be a life long positive impression and none of the girls view tech careers as anything less than excellent choices for women.

This is something any community can do.

This is also something any forward thinking company concerned about education, its candidate pipeline, community engagement and diversity, can do in house, at a high school, college or local computer learning center.

Companies in every community could and should be doing this during the summer, or as after school drop in centers.

I could think of many camp and club concepts for various occupations and industries.

What are you and your company doing to influence youth and the future in a positive way in your community?

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