Technology a must in careers

By Danielle Gaines

Years ago, one had to pay a cashier for a banana at the grocery store-now you can simply insert your cash into a machine.

Today, certain professions are seen as irreplaceable, but there is no telling in the future. Technological changes, political policies and hundreds of other variables will undoubtedly change today’s careers over time. In the high-tech world of palm pilots, e-faxing, and teleconferencing, more and more experts advise that the best way to maintain employment is to be flexible and technologically competent.

In the past, technological tasks were left to a technology specialist, usually outsourced by a company. Now employees are expected to know the basics of computer navigation and more.

“Some basic understanding of computers and computing is a fundamental skill of any student in the world of today,” said Marc Snir, Head of the Computer Science Department. “The problem is that students believe knowing how to send and receive e-mail or accessing Web pages means they understand computers. These basic skills are important, but I strongly believe that anyone who is in a knowledge intensive job needs to understand how data is being represented in computers, accessed from computers, computations, algorithms, and more; otherwise it is basically like driving a car with no knowledge of what is under the hood.”

An introductory computer course, CS 105, is available to all students and aims to provide them with the basic understanding they need for today’s job market. Lee Thoms, junior in LAS, took the course last semester and said that he sees working with computers as a huge movement in the business world. Thoms added that he learned not only applications but also programming techniques.

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“It will definitely help me in the future,” Thoms said.

Salaries for technologically experienced employees are often more attractive and there are plenty of jobs to choose from. “The Illinois Occupational Outlook in Brief,” published by the Illinois Department for Employment Security found that three of the top eight occupations requiring a bachelor’s degree with the most openings each year are in computer-related fields. Each of these jobs has an entry level hourly pay of $18.70 or higher. The remaining five occupations also employ the use of technology on a regular basis.

Many fields are incorporating technology into their everyday practices including the health care industry, insurance, law, finance, real estate and even local beauty salons.

Susan Hessee, lawyer in the Student Legal Services office has seen many technological changes in the field of law.

“Technology has had a great impact on my field. To start from the beginning, you can’t get into law school in many places around the country without a laptop and certain computer skills. You just will not be admitted,” she said. “Another way this area has changed is that a lot of private attorneys are letting their human staff go. Lawyers have developed the ability to create their own documents and do their own printing and so on, so the job of a secretary is eliminated.”

Information from the 2000 census indicates that older citizens are leaving the work force in numbers greater than those replacing them. Due to this shortage, employers are developing machines and computers to either replace workers or create efficiency in the workforce. For this reason, it is essential that every graduate have some basic knowledge of computers.

George Ploss, junior in LAS, is torn on the importance of technology today.

“The human factor is definitely being replaced by a microchip and that is not always a good thing,” he said.

While graduation rates are increasing, large segments of the workforce lack the technological training that employers demand.

“If you do architecture, art, if you do anything that has to do with information processing, information management, any job that uses a brain will use a computer in one form or another,” Snir said.