Rick Geritz says he isn’t a technologist, nor an educator. But he may well change both of those worlds in the next five years.
Geritz leads a young Baltimore-based company named LifeJourney, a fast-growing favorite of companies focused on advancing America’s STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) mission. He believes that improving America’s global STEM competitiveness is about letting kids do what they naturally want to do — follow a role model into a good job.
“STEM is not a degree, but a capability that is innate in all of us,” Geritz observes. “Kids will drive innovation and the future economy if we help them unleash their STEM capabilities.”
LifeJourney enables students to test-drive their future by living a day in the life of America’s STEM leaders.
“Simply put, companies take the ‘Peyton Manning’ of their company and enable students to live the ‘journey’ they took to success,” he says.
The LifeJourney mentors guide the student through what they do in real life, enabling the student to connect the classroom to what happens in the business world. As a result, it gives companies a high impact way to support teachers and parents by having one of their leaders become the role model to the next generation.
Technology enables a single LifeJourney mentor to guide 10,000 or more students. Potentially, every student in America could have a STEM mentor from a leading company.
Cybersecurity, one of the fastest growing STEM fields, is the right place to start. And certainly Geritz knows a thing or two about the growth in cybersecurity – he chairs CyberMaryland, the coordinated effort of academia, government and some 300 companies to create more jobs in that discipline.
The Cyber Jobs report published by CyberPoint International last year showed some 340,000 open unfulfilled jobs in the field alone.
“Cybersecurity touches every part of our lives, from the ATM machine, to Netflix, to Facebook. So, cyber jobs are growing for the foreseeable future,” he explains. “Companies need more employees, and companies want to help mentor kids. Now they have the technology to reach them all.
“Facebook is a platform for sharing your life. LinkedIn is a platform for sharing your resume,” says Geritz. “We see LifeJourney as the platform for sharing your experience with the next generation.
“Forget B2B or B2C – this is H2H (human to human).”
An audacious goal, but consider the companies that already are on board: Lockheed Martin, Intel, Kaspersky Lab, CyberPoint, Symantec, BAE, COPT, SafeNet and others. Consider, too, Geritz’s experience, which includes multiple first to market startup companies in engineering software, cybersecurity, social media, and education.
What drives him now is the 8,300 students who drop out of high school every day. Each one, he believes, with talent for STEM jobs.
“All that today’s students need are role models, and a path to get there,” he tells audiences. “Students want to know the skills of their role model, and they need their school time to equip them with ways to pursue a future like their role models.”
It’s working. LifeJourney is rolling out in multiple school districts and is being used to help teachers connect their curriculum to the careers of their students as far back as 7th grade. Numbers aren’t available for the three-year-old private company, but as the nation’s dulled competitive edge becomes more acute, there seems no shortage of interested companies and interested school districts.