Unable to find employees with the necessary skills, engineer Doug Livingston became a teacher to pass on those skills and eventually a specialist to extend skills and perspectives throughout the state.
If employers can’t find someone with the skills they think are important, they can hire someone without those skills, continue searching, or teach individuals the desired skills. Doug Livingston chose the third option. He decided to teach high school students the skills he had been looking for when he was employed at an engineering company.
As a group supervisor, Livingston sat in on interviews with candidates for openings in his area. He found it increasingly difficult to find applicants with the skill set he wanted. Instead of merely being frustrated, he decided to be part of the needed change.
“We needed employees with drafting skills,” he said. “We needed people who were not only proficient in using the CAD software, but [able to] effectively communicate the design intent and requirements through technical drawings. It is analogous to someone who is very talented with word processing software and keyboard skills, but has no ability to write a novel.”
“I enjoyed my time as an engineer, but I wanted to do something that I felt was more meaningful,” Livingston said. “I had spent enough time complaining about the lack of qualified applicants and decided to try and make a small difference by training a few. So I returned to school in order to pursue a teaching degree.”
“Teaching isn’t as lucrative a career as engineering, but I find it to be more rewarding,” Livingston said.
After graduating from BYU in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in technology education, Livingston taught at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah. His focus was on preparing students for engineering schools and for the workplace. During that time, Livingston continued his work at BYU, earning a master’s degree in technology in 2009.
Livingston had no intention of leaving the classroom, but he was offered an opportunity to serve on the state level. He now works with the Utah State Office of Education as an education specialist in the technology and engineering program area. He shares insights from his experiences as an engineer, a BYU student, and a high school teacher with other teachers around the state. He teaches them how to help students gain work-related skills.
Currently, Livingston is working on developing technological literacy, which is less about skill development and more about understanding technology’s influence on society. He explains that instead of just teaching how a bird house is made, classes should instruct students more about why bird houses are made, how they impact society, and how they can be most effectively built.
Reflecting on his time at BYU, Livingston recognizes his transformative experience.
“I was an older student when I returned to BYU, and probably set in my ways,” he said. “But it still changed me. It was without any doubt a rich experience. I count the opportunity I had to study at BYU as a blessing every day. It changed the course of my life.”
Two professors who made an impact on his time at BYU were Steve Shumway and Jared Berrett. Livingston says there has hardly been a day when he hasn’t consciously referenced techniques they modeled.
“I cannot think of a more effective teacher education program that prepares students to teach the principles of technology literacy in the middle [and] junior and [senior] high schools than what exists at BYU,” Livingston said. “The new teachers entering the profession from [BYU] are a cut above, and it is evident in their performance in the classroom.”