A leading technology company helps students align their strengths, interests, and values.
GUEST COLUMN | by Christi Cline
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that haven’t been created yet. How can students prepare for and aspire to work in a career they don’t know exists?
As a company that employs thousands of engineers and computer scientists who invent mobile technologies, the future of Qualcomm is dependent on continuous innovation, which requires creative minds and top talent. Given the competitiveness of the mobile industry, we feel it is imperative to increase awareness about STEM career paths, as well as inspire students to pursue STEM-related education. This is why we created the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab – part makerspace, part lab and classroom – and have served more than 8,000 students and educators since opening in 2014.
No one is able to predict what the jobs of the future will be, so it is essential that individuals build a strong educational base and identify their unique talents so they can be best prepared for the future of work.
A core part of the Thinkabit Lab experience is the Qualcomm World of Work (QWOW). During each QWOW session, students gain exposure to different types of engineering careers, such as software, hardware, systems, as well as non-engineering careers needed to support technology companies, such as finance, marketing and human resources.
QWOW also assists students with identifying their unique talents and how they can be applied to a real-world career. Top tech companies need a variety of skills to be successful. Through our activities, we show students that there is a place for them in the world, and that their talents are needed. Our QWOW exercise allows students to uncover their strengths and connect them to meaningful careers.
Career exploration can begin in a student’s younger years or as an adult. This approach has guided my mission as a founding member of Thinkabit: to expose more students and educators to the world of work and the idea of self-development.
This method has been key to my professional success. I have had three separate careers throughout my adult life. My early years as a public school teacher and then a manager in hospitality would not have automatically led me to predict that I would work at a leading technology company. However, I recognized my passion for creating career development experiences, facilitating educator trainings and leading marketing efforts – and now work my dream job at Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab as a leader of the QWOW experience.
The QWOW approach has been impactful with participants of all ages. The QWOW experience has included employees going through our Career Explorations program, veterans, college interns and Thinkabit participants. In fact, approximately 90 percent of veterans that went through QWOW found employment after learning more about their strengths, interests and values.
In our experience working with employees, veterans, and students ranging from middle school to grad school, we found that it is important that every worker and student learn to manage and own their career through self-awareness and ongoing identification of opportunities. No one is able to predict what the jobs of the future will be, so it is essential that individuals build a strong educational base and identify their unique talents so they can be best prepared for the future of work.
Our efforts not only seek to spark interest and motivate people to encourage students to self-explore but also expose them to the wonders of STEM-related careers. Incorporating these lessons in school will not only better prepare students for 21st century careers but also increase high-skilled jobs in the U.S. and maintain American competitiveness. We’re passionate about helping the next generation learn to invent, innovate, identify career opportunities, and explore what’s possible in the world of work.
Christi Cline is a senior career development specialist for Qualcomm, Inc., where she works as program manager and career coach for Workforce Development Labs programs, responsible for leading implementation and experiences for Hire-A-Youth, the Qualcomm World of Work, and the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab.