Technology changes the way we do things. Still, our minds are the masters of technology. To be successful in the 21st century, we must learn to master our minds through academic study and practical, applied technology.

Students, along with parents, teachers, guidance counselors and other mentors, also must consider the impact of technology on careers. Automation — made possible through technological advancement — has eliminated  some jobs while creating others.

What We Do for a Living in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, published by Pennsylvania College of Technology, takes an in-depth look at the modern world of work. I invite you to read the publication to learn more about viable career options, fast-growing occupations, and emerging workforce needs.

what we do for a living
Current workforce data helps students set career paths.

While today’s jobs require use of computers and other tools of the technological age, employers seek to hire individuals who also can  use their knowledge and experience to serve human (customer/client) needs and support efficient, cooperative work environments.

The top skills projected to be in demand, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information & Analysis are shared in What We Do For A Living.

The Working Class public television series introduces audiences to students and teachers who engage in practical, hands-on activities as part of the academic experience. Episode one, Working Class: Dream and Do, introduces career paths for students who are interested in design, creativity, invention and innovation.

Designers and developers use technology to streamline processes and communicate ideas in an instant. Still, they begin the design process by accessing  information stored in their own minds. They call upon knowledge of mathematics, science, language and art to address their clients’ needs.

Every new product – and every tool, device or machine that creates a new product – begins as an idea. A human mind in a human body ponders every challenge and conceives of every solution that drives technology.

Instructor Walter Hartman championed technical illustration students prior to Patrick Murphy

Before computers were on every desk and in every pocket, professional illustrators used hands, eyes, and brains to capture every detail required to communicate designs.

While doing research for Working Class: Dream and Do in Penn College’s Madigan Library Archives,  I discovered a series of technical illustrations drawn by mid-20th century students. I marveled at the drawings’ clean lines and neat arrangements of elements – all created without the aid of technology.

The introduction of computers enhanced the efficiency of technical illustration, but did not eliminate the need for human skill to create modern designs.

“Technical illustrators went the way of elevator operators, so to speak, because of the computer,” said Patrick Murphy, a retired Penn College professor, who was recognized as a Master Teacher (the institution’s highest level of recognition for faculty) and featured in Working Class: 100 Years of Hands-on Education, a book that I wrote in 2014.

Pat Murphy
Patrick Murphy

Decades ago, Pat led the College’s art and design programs into the electronic era. Throughout that transition and beyond, he insisted that the skills required to create hand-drawn technical illustrations transferred into electronic design.

“We found that those people who were adept with the hands … were talented not only this way, but when they moved to a computer, their design skills followed through and those who struggled with the hand, the eye, the brain, struggled on the computer too … because concepts are still underlying all of this.”

Pat Murphy offers drawing advice

At the foundation of modern technologies are the talents of men and women who use their minds to master the skills required to advance society. We see the impact of technology in every career field in the 21st century, so we cannot overstate the importance of teaching students to apply their education in practical, hands-on activities.

Focusing young minds on comprehensive, practical learning as a foundation for technology training must be a priority if we are to continue to experience technological advancement in our society.

In my next blog, I’ll share the legacy of a 20th century educator whose understanding of the connection between technology, society and the trained mind influenced generations of students and teachers across the world.


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