The Importance and Need for Education and STEM

Hello French Fries!

So last night I got caught up on one of my favorite TV shows, the History Channel’s Vikings. I can’t overstate how much I enjoy that show, it’s artistic, evocative and keeps surprising me at every corner. I am a sucker for historical drama/action shows and films, but now that Black Sails and Da Vinci’s Demons are no longer in production, Vikings is probably my favorite show currently on the airwaves. As much as I love these historical action dramas, I would never be able to survive in a world like that with the lack of technology and having to live more closely to the land and nature, along with the differing outlook and value placed on human life. To those people who can go into the wild, and spend weeks at a time and thrive by living off of the game and wild vegetation, I must say I am highly impressed by your skills, and a little bit jealous. Maybe that will be my New Years resolution, to learn how to survive without technology and a grocery store around the corner.

 

Now for my rant of the day: There are few things more important to an economy, especially to an advanced, modernized and high tech economy than a pool of qualified workers who have the education and experience to fill the demand for jobs. The key to expanding a highly-skilled worker base is access to quality education.  When it comes to the tech industry, this is especially important. There is a very shallow talent pool across the globe for educated and qualified IT professionals. According to the US Department of Labor, there are six million open job positions right now in the United States economy, and over 20% of those job positions, 1 in 5, are for IT positions. That’s a huge share for a large and dynamic economy.  At a macroeconomic level, that’s good for us tech industry workers because with the high demand and low supply, we can command higher wages and more benefits. So, if you are a young student, or looking for a career change, I’m going to detail in this post why you should seek an education in the STEM fields, and how to best position yourself for an economy of tomorrow.

Benjamin Franklin once said that “An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends“. Benjamin Franklin was quite an intelligent (and educated) man, and his observation was not incorrect. In fact, statistical facts supports his assertion. It has been one of the worst kept secrets of American society that the best way up the social ladder is through education. Gaining a well rounded and thorough education increases the quality of life for anyone willing to put in the effort. The knowledge (and accreditation proving one’s educational attainment) one gains from a solid and structured education opens doors to jobs and careers that thrive in a knowledge based economy. Of course, better and higher paying jobs means a higher quality of life. This knowledge based economy necessitates a need for workers with knowledge and skill sets one can obtain through a quality education.   This is why most western nations require a mandatory minimum level of compulsory educational attainment, and invest large sums in school and university systems.

When it comes to a university level education, one must realize that to really get ahead in almost any field, they will have to interact with the university systems. Whether one is becoming an artist, a scientist, doctor, logistics manager, builder, or even an American football player, most desirable positions in their field will require a university level education while screening job candidates. Universities not only play a central role in the development of the workers, but also serve as economic engines in their own right through research and development of theories, technologies, scientific advancements and ideas which are often spun off into private companies.

When it comes to what type of degree one should seek when entering college, the ones that pay off the most financially are the STEM degrees of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. While separate disciplines, all four of these fields are interrelated, and are all contributing to high skill industries that are in high demand, but lack a supply of qualified candidates. This means a larger than average payday for anyone graduating with a degree in a STEM field. However, while I am a technology guy with a STEM degree myself, I must caution that most economists will rightly argue that you should get a degree in something you enjoy, not in something that will pay you the most financially, because the intrinsic benefits of working in a field you love and the joy that you will get from that far outweigh getting a degree and a career in a field that you do not enjoy and find miserable.

Now, a factor that has to be taken in consideration is the price of a degree. In the United States, the cost of obtaining a college education is borne by the one pursuing that education, often with the assistance of his or her family. Unfortunately, the tuition costs of attending college have risen at a dizzying rate, far outstripping the rate of inflation and the average incomes. This has been further hampered by dwindling investment in universities by local, state and federal governments, with a trend of budget cuts for the educational system expected to continue for the foreseeable future. This is due in part to a misguided political view by conservatives that university education leads to elitism and liberal outlooks, and by religious evangelicals that universities teach science in violation and conflict with the biblical narrative, a violation of christian orthodoxy which in their view is the only truth. So as tuition prices continue to rise, and government subsidizing continues to fall, it becomes harder for those in the lower and middle classes to attend a university and pull themselves into a higher class. This has lead to many Americans to go abroad for a college degree.

While the American university system is the most prestigious worldwide (which has lead to many foreign students coming to America for an education), degrees in other developed (and developing) countries are not nearly as costly. Hence there’s been a rising wave of Americans going abroad. This could spell a harbinger for the US economy, since students studying abroad can often gain employment in their host countries after graduation, leading to them staying there and not returning home. If this trend continues to increase, it has the potential to create a brain drain which the United States cannot afford while slowly recovering from the Great Recession of the past decade. Thankfully, America is not at that point yet since the amount of students coming from abroad still outstrips those going abroad, which at the present offsets that scenario.

While there may be potential issues to iron out in the cost of education, and while I do not really have a plan on how to address these potential issues (I’ve had a busy day and this blog is supposed to encourage discussion and debate, not give all the answers), I do implore everyone reading this who is either about to go to college for the first time, or wants to change their career, to consider a career in STEM. Not only is it rewarding intellectually, I am working with the cutting edge every day at my job, and I absolutely love it. Working in cyber security feels a bit like being a techno James Bond, investigating faults and risks with the coolest and latest gizmos and gadgets from Q branch. We need more workers in the STEM fields, and as a practitioner of STEM, it is my solemn duty to promote and pander you into pondering the awesomeness that is getting to work in technology.

 

Just to follow up from my last post, there was a fake news story going around this morning about how 700 terabytes of documents exposing a planned anti-Trump deep state coup as well as deep state participation in 9/11 was released by Wikileaks as reported by a site called chronicle.su. The .su domain is an obvious give away that this is not a reputable source or story. The .su country code top level domain was only officially regulated for 15 months between when country code top level domains were issued and when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Since it is not regulated, official journalistic organizations would not have access nor would they use the .su domain. Just goes to show how relevant fake news is today.

 

For my tech tip of the day: I travel a lot for my personal life’s commitments, and some for my professional job as well. As some of you who travel are aware, going through the airport security line, regardless of how long the wait, is a pain in the tuchus. So I’m going provide some tricks that I use to make my turn through the security screening and globetrotting the world as quick, seamless and efficient as possible with the technology I carry on my person. First and foremost, before I leave for the airport, and especially if I’m going abroad, I will take a scan of my passport, another form of photo ID, bank card, medical insurance card, a list of emergency contact numbers, airline tickets, and hotel confirmations, and I save them in an encrypted and password protected place on the internet or in the cloud (in my case, in an encrypted and password protected folder in my Dropbox account) so I can access it from anywhere that has an internet connection on the planet in case of an emergency, and I have everything backed up. When I get to the airport, but before I get to security (normally while en route to the airport if I’m not driving myself, or at the ticketing counter waiting to check in) I will put my cell phone, as well as my belt wallet, belt, jewelry and anything metal and put it in a dedicated front or side pocket in my knapsack or bag that I can easily access so that the only thing I’m carrying is my ID and ticket, and all I need to take off when I get to the security line is my shoes. I also normally keep in that same front pocket my phone charger, headphones, and 2 external phone battery charger packs so I can be sure that I have enough juice on my phone to get me through to my destination. Nowadays, most airlines have dedicated phone charging outlets at the terminal gates, and the newer planes have USB ports under or beside the seats, so in my mind I am completely covered with one battery pack, but two gives me a more security. I use a backpack with a separate laptop compartment from the rest of the bag, and it’s easy to access from the zipper. Since security requires your laptop to be screened separately from the rest of your stuff, I make sure my bag is packed so that my access to my laptop is unobstructed so I can just unzip the top of my bag, put my hand in, it’s the first and only thing I will touch, and I can pull it right out without anything impeding or getting in the way. Finally, once through security, if you have a wifi enabled device, like a tablet or a smart phone, many airports have free wifi, so you can make international calls using Skype or hangouts without getting charged for calling internationally.

 

Well French Fries, that’s a (Chicken Caesar) wrap for today. It’s almost Friday, so hang in there, and if my cousin happens to be reading my blog, Happy Birthday! You know who you are. As always…

…the ketchup is in the sauce.

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