Lauren Gilchrist High-Tech Blogger Tweet These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find any career track that isn’t impacted by technology in some way. Industries that were once considered “low-tech” are now desperately in need of people with technology skills. Yet, the education many aspiring trade professionals and others are bringing to the table is less than adequate for 21st century success in these fields. Knowledge of technology is indispensable for every student today, not just those pursuing engineering or computer programming. To help every student succeed, it’s imperative that technology be woven throughout the curriculum and integrated into the daily learning environment. Let’s find out why a tech-rich education can give students an advantage in fields that have historically been seen as “low-tech” career paths. Auto Mechanics “Instead of taking 8 hours to diagnose a car, you can do it in 30 minutes.” That’s the impact technology has had on auto mechanics according to Eddie Cathey, an instructor at the Excel Institute, which prepares students for careers in auto repair. It only makes sense that the qualifications for a good auto mechanic already include increased computer skills. After all, vehicles are becoming progressively more advanced, with computers controlling everything from braking and engine management to navigation and in-car entertainment systems, not to mention the complicated electrical systems that make it possible for hybrid vehicles to be so fuel efficient. The CEO at an auto service shop in Gainesville, Virginia, says his top five technicians are the “computer gurus” on staff. They’re in the highest demand and make the most money – six-figure salaries. In the coming years, the auto mechanic who is computer savvy and has knowledge and experience working with electronics will have the longest, most successful career in the industry. Electricians, Maintenance Workers, and HVAC Pros The amount of technology that runs our buildings is continually on the rise, just as it is in our vehicles. Therefore, the best modern-day electricians have the skills needed to install and fix fiber optics, sophisticated controls, computer processors, and other networking gear. “I don’t think people realize how much science and technology can go into controlling a building,” says Adam Palmer, a J.M. Electrical Co. project manager who has a university degree in electromechanical engineering. The same trend is seen in the ways our heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC) systems operate. Therefore, HVAC professionals also benefit from an increase in technology skills. In fact, two of the “top 10 qualities of a great HVAC employee” are good computer skills and an interest in advanced training. As our buildings become ever more complex, so must the skillsets of the people who maintain them. For some of these employees, the title of “janitor” is being replaced with something more fitting for the evolving position, such as “energy management technician.” ↪ Close the digital divide in your district. Journalists Every facet of journalism, from newsgathering to distributing, has changed tremendously over the past few decades, thanks largely to the development of technology. The smartphone enables nearly every journalist to double as a photographer. Digital audio recorders make it possible to record interviews on the fly. Laptops, navigation systems, and smartphone apps also help journalists to become more efficient and stay connected. The 1 a.m. deadline is yesterday’s news. Today’s timescale has been compressed to “ASAP” or “5 minutes ago.” Social media helps journalists with their research, allowing them to crowdsource and get regular updates directly from people on the scene. When it comes to reaching an audience, social media has contributed to exponential growth. Journalists report with live blogging and create podcasts and vodcasts. They also use platforms like Twitter, YouTube, and Dipity to tell their stories, just like citizen journalists. It’s hard to stop a tech-savvy reporter. TC McCarthy’s vehicle was nearly hit by a tree while he was reporting on Hurricane Sandy. The tech-smart reporter stopped to shoot a selfie-style breaking news update. Soon after, McCarthy was stalled by a train outage in New York City. He whipped out his phone and turned the unfortunate circumstance into an opportunity. He recorded three interviews, used his phone’s Notes feature to jot notes, and wrote the story using Google Docs. He submitted his article before reaching his stop. Construction Workers Tools traditionally used in professions like engineering, architecture, and accounting are now commonplace in construction. Construction workers use design software, lasers, 3D models, drones, spreadsheets, and global positioning systems. They save time and eliminate redundant data entry by incorporating tech that manages payroll, tracks time, and assigns job codes, as well as imports, categorizes, and archives drawings. High-tech construction companies can communicate more effectively. Smartphones give workers access to important information required for monitoring and controlling costs onsite, and sending quick updates from the field. With software like NoteVault, workers can “call in” notes that will be transcribed and automatically emailed, along with photos, in a daily report to project stakeholders. Rusty Linkous, director of business development at Linkous Construction Co, Inc., said incorporating personal digital assistants has had a tremendous impact on communication. “Communication has been the biggest change in recent years,” he declared. According to BostonInno, technology is behind two major shifts in construction: 1) more efficient day-to-day practices and 2) smarter building structures. Since the structures these workers create are more technically advanced, all workers, not just managers, must have a better understanding of high-tech systems. A current trend in the industry is retrofitting – changing or adding onto existing structures to bring them into the 21st century. As the definition implies, retrofitting is tech-heavy. It often involves installing new lighting systems, climate sensors, and building automation systems, as well as integrating existing systems to save energy. Plumbers The Government of Canada posted a list of “essential skills for success as a plumber.” Computer use gets its own category on the list. There’s a reason high-tech plumbers are in high demand. The tools they use for diagnosing and fixing problems allow them to work more efficiently and cost-effectively, which provides the customer with an all-around better experience. What family or business wouldn’t prefer to have their problems resolved and the plumber out the door in one hour instead of two? Today’s tech-savvy plumbers use video cameras attached to fiber optic cables to look inside pipes and determine where and what the issue is. They use hydro jets to clear blockages and electric drain augers to break up clogs. Plumbers with tech know-how can offer and install more technically advanced and sought-after solutions that save customers money, such green dishwashers, greywater systems, or sprinklers that automatically shut off based on weather reports. Technicians at a Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchise in Texas use iPads for onsite access to paperwork, photos, and videos, and to see if parts are available. Outside of the home or business, plumbing companies use technology to track their fleets with a GPS. They are better equipped to plan routes, reduce fuel waste, and ensure that drivers are arriving on time. Brandy Waugh, co-owner of the Amarillo-based Mr. Rooter, has found numerous benefits of her fleet tracking system. “By tracking a technician’s route, I can tell a customer exactly when the technician will arrive,” she said. “If a customer calls in a panic with an urgent request, I can find the closest technician and reroute him… If someone calls and complains that they were overcharged, I can look up the exact time that the technician arrived at the customer’s house and when he left.” The Technological Edge As you can see, even if a field hasn’t traditionally been “high-tech,” knowledge of technology and the ability to use high-tech tools help some professionals gain the upper hand. Prepare all of your students for 21st century success by integrating technology into your curriculum. Your tech-competent graduates will be much more likely to succeed in the years ahead as the tools we use continue to evolve. Contact us today to learn how Skyward can help you weave technology into the fabric of your daily learning environment.