The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce hosted a luncheon panel with Northwestern Polytechnic University Peter Hsieh and California State Assemblyman Evan Low. The event was designed to discuss the challenges that schools face when educating students for the high-tech workforce in Silicon Valley.
Northwestern Polytechnic University Peter Hsieh is the President of NPU and has over 20 years of prominent work experience, including expertise in organizational development, change management, and people management. Before becoming President, he had worked both as NPU’s Executive Vice President and its CFO.
Before joining NPU full-time, Mr. Hsieh had practiced law as an attorney for over 16 years, most recently as the Vice President, General Counsel & Chief Compliance Officer at Knowles Electronics, LLC, a large international company based close to Chicago.
Mr. Low is the California State Assemblyman representing the 28th District of California which covers much of the Silicon Valley, including Cupertino, Saratoga, and parts of Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. Assemblyman Low is a strong proponent of public education reform and helped establish a grant program for students entering STEM-related fields at universities in California.
In an interview following the panel discussion, Mr. Hsieh talked about various ways to help students excel in the fields of STEM and how to make sure they receive a quality education.
Q: You were talking about how there are not enough people who have been educated, whether from high school or college, for this field. Do you think that is an issue? It has been going on for a while now, or do you think it has become more evident in the past few years?
A: We definitely see a shortage. Before, companies would hire people without asking them what kind of degree they have, but now it is no longer an option to ignore the educational background. There was a time when I hired someone with almost zero education and let him learn on the job. He turned out to be an exceptional developer who got promoted three times, but it would never happen now.
Q: Do you think that is because Silicon Valley becoming more competitive?
A: You can say that, but I also believe that from a company perspective, they want their investment to pay off. Whether it is a college degree or a community college degree, companies make the investment and expect an employee to contribute.
Q: Do you think that as far as education, do all students need four-year degrees now?
A: In this field, especially because it changes rapidly, I believe that people with higher education will have more opportunities. After graduating with an IT degree, I knew someone who said that she heard the industry was changing. So she enrolled into a game design program at Northwestern Polytechnic University, got involved with internships, and has now worked for Ubisoft Entertainment for more than five years.
Q: Do you think students are getting enough support from schools?
A: No. I think there are too few people who have been trained as educators, teachers, and instructors to support this field of learning. There is a lack of qualified people and a lack of focus on education in the school systems.
Q: Do you think that it would be better if more students went into this industry? How do you think schools are going to be able to support this gap?
A: I don’t necessarily think that it would be better if more students went into the high-tech industry, but a gap needs to be filled. For example, AP Computer Science in high school is not offered in many California schools, but the state is trying to bring it back. I think there are two ways to solve this gap: one is through the school system, which will need more qualified staff; and the other is through universities like Northwestern Polytechnic University where students can get a hybrid education in the field (a degree in related field with an emphasis in CS).