I took my boys to a game design workshop on Saturday that was sponsored and put on by an organization called IT-ology. IT-ology's purpose is to increase the IT workforce and is a collaboration between education, business, and specific organizations to do so. Organizations like IT-ology exist because we understand that we need to develop students and professionals in information technology and related fields. This is typically called Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). When I look at the STEM education statistics (some were shown this weekend) for the United States, it's rather depressing. Quite simply, we're falling short, as detailed in this report (see the section on Developing Future STEM Innovators).
Around me there are two organizations I know of that deal with this issue. There is IT-ology and Fast Forward. I know both organizations are always looking for volunteers, for funding, for solid help. There is simply more to do than the folks who work in those organizations can do. I've helped out at Fast Forward before and I probably will again soon. With IT-ology I've gone to their train-the-trainer course for teaching middle school students about online safety and security. That means I may get a call to go to a school and lead that program, which would be nice. They are getting more calls than they can field. This goes back to the point about these types of organizations needing willing and knowledgeable volunteers.
If you've got the time and the energy, look to volunteer in an organization or group around where you live and play. It's a rewarding experience when you see the light bulb go on for another person, when they get what you're trying to show them. For instance, this past weekend in addition to doing game design, there was an activity where the kids built their very own CAT5 ethernet cable. Not a big deal. Not very hard for those of us who have done hundreds, even thousands of them. The last time I actively built cable was in the USAF well over 10 years ago. Still, it was a blast jumping in and helping my own boys build their own and then seeing their faces break into huge smiles as they tested them with the cable tester and found that the cables tested out fine. Something this simple can make a big difference in a kid's life. So you don't have to be a tier 3 expert in networking or development. You just have to be willing to help and share. I hope that you do.