Jun 07 2007

Class of '07 Filled With Tech-Savvy Grads


Michael A. MacDowell is president of College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa.

College Misericordia in Dallas, Pa., conferred 568 diplomas during spring commencement. These new graduates hail from 15 states and various socioeconomic backgrounds and are not unlike their brothers and sisters from other institutions of higher education throughout the country who are embarking on new chapters in their lives.

But, according to author and educational consultant Marc Prensky, these graduates are different from those who graduated only five years ago. This year's graduates are far more technologically sophisticated. According to Prensky, the average 21-year-old college graduate entering the workforce today has played about 500 hours of video games, exchanged approximately 250,000 e-mails and instant messages, and spent at least 10,000 hours conversing on cell phones.

Prensky calls these new grads the "iPod generation." They are tech-savvy youths who carry the ability to apply various technologies to their jobs. For employers, these graduates present unique abilities and challenges, as well.

First, they will likely be more efficient in their professions. However, they will also challenge traditional workplace procedures put in place before the latest technologies were developed. They wonÕt stand for outdated systems, but will quickly adopt new technologies to get their jobs done.

Prensky says the class of '07 will expect leniency in the workplace, especially when it comes to using technology at work. The many devices they will bring with them, including music players and USB sticks (memory storage device with a universal serial bus interface), represent a potential headache for information technology security managers. This is not news to higher education IT managers who have seen these students on campus for four years or more.

On the other hand, these graduates come with a knowledge and appreciation for the greater good and the potential security issues that technology brings to the workplace. They tend to be both sophisticated and respectful of technology.

These individuals will also, by nature, be more entrepreneurial. The recent 5th Annual Great Valley Technology Alliance business plan competition, for example, showcased the vision and talents of Misericordia graduate student Allison Davis and Luzerne County Community College student Danielle Wido. They developed the winning innovative startup business, Shirtificates.com, a company that can create monogrammed T-shirts overnight. The winning team was among 25 entries, and six finalists for the grand prizes -- $20,000 in cash, a year of free office space, consultation, legal advice, and other prizes designed to make their innovative specialty T-shirt business a reality.

Davis, Wido and local business volunteers Emil Calomino and Michael Matosky, will join Eleven Moons, Blackout Design, Grad Techs, Right Traqs and other local companies that have been spawned by the Great Valley Alliance's annual Business Plan Competition. Students and graduates of East Stroudsburg University, King's College, local Penn State University campuses, Keystone College, Marywood University, the University of Scranton and Wilkes University have all won or placed in this business plan contest. Technologically sophisticated and entrepreneurial by nature, these graduates will not only be good employees in existing firms, but will create the businesses of tomorrow that will assure our regionÕs success.

The graduates of 2007 will become more independent as employees than their predecessors. They will often insist upon working at home or in business environments far different from the buttoned-down workplace of past decades. Many will go to work for established companies but others will work at rapidly growing firms such as Pepperjam, which began operations in 1999 with one employee at the Innovation Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre. Today, the Internet marketing company plans to hire more employees to bring their total workforce to nearly 100. The oldest employee of Pepperjam.com is 31, and these young people are making great strides. Justin Garruba, a 2006 management information science graduate from Misericordia, already supervises several people there.

The 2007 graduates represent a tremendous asset both to this region and to the country. But they will need to be handled differently than those who emerged into the job market even 10 years ago. These new graduates enter the workforce with significant abilities, intelligence and the capabilities to apply new knowledge and technologies. They have the ability to aggressively create the wealth of tomorrow. We are fortunate to have them among us. Welcome them to the workplace and treat them well.