Where did our technology career ladders go?

Russ Steele

Many local citizen like to think of our community as a high tech mecca, or in a more realistic assessment an applied technology mecca. Regardless of the technology levels used, the community is very clever at hiding this technology from our children.

Grass Valley is recognized around the world for the regions digital video technology, yet we lack career ladders for our young people to participate in this expanding world of video technology and businesses that surround it. At least that is my understanding, from a luncheon conversation with a local video industry observer.

Looking at the Sierra College Catalog, I could only find two video related courses. I understand the High School only has one video production course. It seems to me that as a globally recognized video cluster that we need a more focused effort to train our young people in the video industry, from both sides of the camera.

It takes more than engineers to create and manufacture a product. The local video industry needs technicians as well as engineers to do quality control and testing tasks.  According to the industry observer local companies are paying engineers to do jobs that qualified technician could do.  We seem to lack a career ladder for technicians, except for some limited on the job training.

The question is could we do a better job of getting our young people involved and excited about all aspects of the video business? Such a program could help local companies be more productive by creating a technician career ladder in both manufacturing and video production?  With a strong technician core, engineers could focus more on innovation and creativity, while reducing production costs.

We need a program that starts with video shop classes in high school from manufacturing, repairing and maintaining equipment to how to use this equipment in the studio. Then on high school graduation, move to the community college level for certification as a video tech. Shop should not be a “four letter word” it should be a ticket to a future job.

A technical related career path often starts early in a young persons life when they have some hands on experience, and have an exciting “ah ha moment” discovering how science really works. When the Nevada County Imaginarium was open we took our grandchildren to see and experience the wonders of discovery. Before we had our local imaginarium, we took our own children to San Francisco so they could visit the one there. Multiple times for our youngest, where she discovered interactive Apple computers.

Although our youngest has a Masters in Writing and Publishing, and is currently a Director of Communications for a large school,  she was once an IT tech capitalizing on the skills she taught herself and learned at NU ROP. Hands on experience is a vital part of learning.  She developed the first GV/NC Chamber and Transportation Commission  Web pages, shortly after graduating from high school.

Now the Imaginarium is closed, and perhaps gone for ever with the National Guard Armory up for sale. Apparently it can no longer be used for school projects, due to some earthquake structural rules that might apply in the LA or Bay Area, but not in our rather stable foothills. How can we expect our children to become scientist and technicians without the tools to energize their imagination. To give them a thirst for discovery, the juice to stay in the game when the math and science courses get harder and harder as they progress up the academic ladder.

For an applied tech community, or high tech if you prefer, we seem to be hiding these rewarding technical career ladders from our children. Why?


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

11 Responses to Where did our technology career ladders go?

  1. RL Crabb says:

    It seems rather odd to this observer that the old armory is unfit for habitation, yet the Nevada City Elementary and Hennessey buildings are fine for what’s left of the younger generation. Oh yeah, they’re “historic”, whereas the armory is just a tin shed. I think I’d rather be in the shed during a big shaker.

  2. Russ says:


    I was told that the “tin shed” has six foot thick reenforced concrete walls. I am with you on the big shaker.

  3. videodrone says:

    as a life long video geek there has been a major change in the electronics world the last 20 years or so, where once techs actually diagnosed and repaired down to the component level or calibrated and aligned complex analog systems (3 tube color cameras and analog VTRs are rather complex devices and understanding how they work required a bit more the Ohms law – and these days unless you’re talking to an RF, circuit or power supply engineer Ohms law is only something you memorize and then never use again) these days there is (almost) no such thing, at most its a board swap and then hit the “auto align” – lets face it, almost everything in the video production chain all the way up to the end viewer is either a purpose built or general purpose computer, there is no Heathkit and only a few breadboard kits at Radio Shack – where does someone get to play / learn?

  4. gjrebane says:

    For the record – this morning at NUHS I gave the first of the two annual seminars that precede every TechTest. The seminar was attended by over 30 of our top high school juniors and seniors – a heartening group of bright young people who are our arrows into the future. Seminar #2 will be given on 18 February 2012 from 10am-noon, also in the science lecture hall of NUHS. TechTest2012 is scheduled for 14 April 2012. Students should contact their science/math teacher for more information.

  5. D. King says:

    “For an applied tech community, or high tech if you prefer, we seem to be hiding these rewarding technical career ladders from our children. Why?”

    IMHO these problems stem from Human Resources department’s agenda driven hiring and promotion policies.

    I’ll be happy to elaborate, but you won’t like it!

  6. Bob W says:

    May I suggest what you are witnessing is technology following production as it always does as a result of technology being a support mechanism for production.

    Production facilitates technology not the reverse. They concept that we will retain technology and development while relinquishing production to foreign dominance is a display of self propagating ignorance of career based hands on production experience.

  7. Greg Goodknight says:

    Bob W has it right.

  8. Bob W says:

    It isn’t that I believe I need to elaborate but while this little ditty does not refer to the technology sector of production it has the potential to serve as a practical example of how all sectors of production rely on each other. The collective is referred to as infrastructure. It is our infrastructure we are willingly relinquishing and it will take three generations to reconstruct.


  9. Bob W says:

    Anyone desiring a gut full of reality should make plans to avail themselves of this exposition.


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