The Sigma Youth Symposium promotes technology careers to high school students.
***Update- The 2018 Sigma Youth Symposium will be held on March 3.
By Tracey Edwards
The advances in technology have dramatically changed the workforce over the last couple of decades, and the jobs of today will be different from the jobs of tomorrow. Because of this, Southern California chapters of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. partnered with USC Viterbi School of Engineering for the 2017 Sigma Youth Symposium. The purpose of the event was to prepare high school students for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) industries that they can pursue after college.
The first panel speaker of the event was Darin Gray, the director of the Viterbi School of Engineering, who spoke to the students about the future job market.
“We want you to start thinking about the jobs, and the careers, that don’t yet exist,” he said. “When I was here (as a student at USC) back in the ‘80s, there was no Facebook, there was no Google, there was no Snapchat. None of those companies existed. Those (tech) jobs did not exist. As you’re going forward, the jobs that you’re going to be competing for do not exist. It’s not just about doing well in your courses, it’s about being innovative and having that entrepreneurial spirt.”
Gray said that Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, did a study that showed that 70 percent of the current jobs will not be here in the future because people will be replaced by robots or automated systems. Driverless cars are being created and fast-food restaurants are using automated systems instead of cashiers.
“When I was growing up we had full-service gas stations (with attendants), now we have self-serve gas stations,” Gary said.
The advances of technology will mean that students who earn college degrees from STEM majors will be in high demand. Gray pointed out that there is already a shortage of STEM workers, so there are many jobs available.
“Jobs are coming back, but the jobs that left are not coming back,” he said. “We have entire factories that are run by robots. We don’t need people in those factories. In fact, people make things less productive. In the job that you want, you won’t be fixing the robots, you’ll be programing the robot that goes and fixes the robots in 18 different factories.”
At the symposium, the students learned coding to build websites, and they learned about finances in a money matters workshop. Some of the subject matter covered in the workshops is not taught at many high schools.
“The purpose is to empower our youth with information that they wouldn’t otherwise get,” said Kim Prepetit, director of the symposium. “We want to make sure that they are aware of the programs that they can participate in, that they are aware of the different fields of study that they could be interested in, and get them hands on experiences that they wouldn’t get at their schools.”
The sorority partnered with STEAM:Coders, Oracle, Operation Hope, United States Track & Field, Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, and Beautiful Visions.
“They’re interacting with the kids so that the kids can understand the different things that they can do in engineering,” Prepetit said.
The partnership with USC was also important to show the students that one of the top universities in the nation is interested in them.
“Our interest is to get you to consider us when you’re graduating from high school,” Gray said. “We’re looking for innovative people. We’re looking for people who want to make a difference. We’re looking for people who are going to change the world.”
The Sigma Youth Symposium is presented annually by Sigma Gamma Rho chapters around the nation. The event in Los Angeles was a collaborative effort by Sigma Sigma Chapter (Los Angeles), Theta Upsilon Sigma Chapter (Inglewood), Theta Epsilon Sigma Chapter (Culver City), Lambda Rho Sigma Chapter (Santa Monica), and Epsilon Chi Sigma Chapter (Antelope Valley).
All of these chapters participate in other educational programs, such as Operation Big Book Bag, where they donate school supplies to students twice a year; at the beginning of the fall and spring school semesters.
“A lot of schools don’t have the supplies that they need to do basic experiments, or do basic calculations,” Prepetit said. “There was a classroom at one school that did not have enough calculators for all of their students, so we try to fill in the gaps where the school system is not able to provide.”
The information presented at the symposium can be found at www.greaterlasys.wixsite.com/info. Parents and students are encouraged to sign up for the sorority’s email list to receive educational information.