By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service:
High school students got an inside look at Defense Department information technology jobs during a Pentagon event that showcased the wide variety of opportunities in the field.
Seeking to hire the best and brightest talent, the Defense Department hosted an Information Technology Job Shadow Day yesterday to expose more than 200 high school students to the career field, a Pentagon official said.
“There are 400 [-plus] jobs in information technology,” said Joyce M. France, director of the DOD Chief Information Officer Management Services. “But if you ask an individual, even adults, that aren’t familiar with this arena — the first thing they would think about is coding and building software. But there are many, many, many more jobs in information technology.
“Most of the individuals or students that come through here, I’ve learned, have very limited knowledge of the different types of careers and jobs that are in information technology,” she added.
France said the purpose of the job shadow day was to expose students to different types of jobs and “expose them to DOD, how to apply for jobs, where to look for jobs and what types of scholarships are available.” She noted that this is the first time the department invited representatives from local colleges and universities in.
France said this is the sixth time this event has been held, and it is important to host these occasions because of the competitive hiring market. She noted there were 16 DOD components and 12 organizations involved in this particular job shadow day alone. Five high schools attended, an increase from three prior, including a school from Delaware.
“We’re very competitive with the private sector [and] other federal agencies, ensuring that we can get the top quality IT professionals to come work in the Department of Defense,” she said. “So while we had programs with colleges, I wanted to ensure that we start younger.”
Eugenia Williford, a career experience specialist at the job shadow day, agreed that this is a good approach because of the increasing early emphasis on teens to choose career paths.
“I think high school students, more and more, are being asked to make career decisions earlier,” she said. “It’s really important not to wait until they get to college to start advertising and promoting opportunities.” Williford said the annual job shadow day usually includes young men and women working in the IT field, not much older than the students themselves, willing to share their stories.
The IT shadow days have “always involved young professionals who came and shared their experiences and what they’re doing in the government to try and inspire our kids,” she said.
One former participant in the program, Denis He, now a college student at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., is also on his second internship three years later thanks to the IT Job Shadow Day.
“I just saw it as an opportunity — something to put on my college resume,” He said. “I didn’t really think much of it as an internship opportunity until I came here and noticed how many people were talking about trying to get students for internships.”
He said most of the students who attended didn’t really seem interested, so he “threw his name out there.” After “six or seven months” of e-mailing a particular company he finally got a call, which resulted in his first internship.
“I remember when they told me to build a network, and I had no idea of where to begin,” he recalled, even having to “google” how to make a network cable at one point and using scissors until he was provided crimpers. “Basically, they taught me how parts of the government worked … that was helpful,” he said. “I felt like I got a lot out of the internship.”
He, who’s ultimate goal is to become a “hybrid” working in the law enforcement and cyber security realms, provided advice to future teens that may attend the IT Job Shadow Day.
“Don’t waste this opportunity,” he said. “Don’t look at it like a day off from your classes. If you seem interested in a particular field, look for the person’s email; write it down just don’t stop. “It was interesting, and I think that other students should experience this,” He added.