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How an innovative education strategy could help grow the high-tech talent pool

Submitted by doug.peeples on December 6, 2017

Competition for professionals well-trained in today's evolving technologies is intense because so many industries (and cities) want them — and the supply hasn't been adequate to meet the demand. Some years ago major tech companies hit on the idea of working with high schools and universities to develop coursework and programs to expand the talent pool they depend on for skilled employees.

Council Global Lead Partner Oracle decided to take a somewhat different approach. Two years ago the company announced it would build a public high school on its Redwood Shores, California campus to house an education program focused on design-centered thinking and technology and collaboration skills. Now, with construction all but complete, the school will open in January 2018. Why does that matter to cities? Because one of the big impediments to deploying smart city projects has been a shortage of professionals capable of operating, managing and maintaining the complex and connected high-tech equipment and systems that support those projects. And what Oracle and other companies are doing in the field of high-tech education should contribute to the solution. — Doug Peeples

Design Tech High School opens its doors in January on Oracle's Silicon Valley campus. But while the two-story $43 million building is new, the program it will house began three years ago.

A little history
Typically referred to as, Design Tech High School began as a public charter high school in the San Mateo Union High School District in 2014. As an Oracle news release explained, company officials were impressed with the academic model, enough so that the company partnered with the school and pledged the land and the new building.

The school is expected to have 550 students and 30 faculty members and will be available to the community. The school is publicly funded and free of charge for students. Oracle employees who volunteer for the program will provide mentoring and workshops.

As Ken Montgomery, a co-founder and executive director of, explained when the plan was first announced two years ago, "We're trying to build a school where we teach students that the world can be better, and they can be the ones to make it happen."

No, it's not an 'Oracle school'
As a New York Times article on the opening noted, there were concerns earlier from parents of students and school board members regarding who would run the school. But definite areas of responsibility have been set. The school and its board will be autonomous and Oracle will not have a say in the coursework or faculty selection. And as Montgomery stated in the NYT article, "How do we make sure that we still have autonomy as a school? We are not just training kids to be Oracle employees or just using Oracle products."

Colleen Cassity, executive director of the Oracle Education Foundation which manages the company's relationship with, confirmed Montgomery's assessment of the school's autonomy. As she told the NYT, "Would we like to have the students be Oracle employees? We would love that. But there's no strings attached."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.