Obama’s TechHire Initiative is a Bold Reboot

3/10/2015 5:08:00 PM
By Margot Douaihy
President Obama has just shared the details of TechHire, a new program designed to plug the digital skills gap in the US and boost local economies by fast-tracking workers with training for well-paying technology jobs.

At the heart of TechHire's multi-sector program is a new $100 million H-1B grant competition from the Department of Labor. These grants are designed to foster partnerships that train and connect workers via online learning, in-the-field learning, and paid internships for careers in cybersecurity, coding, network administration, project management, UI design, and data analytics. With flexible course structures and rapid content delivery, the program supports professionals with disabilities, disconnected youth, non-traditional learners, and working parents who want careers in technology without investing limited time and financial resources in a four-year higher ed degree.

At the National League of Cities Congressional City Conference on March 9th, President Obama said that private and public employers across the U.S. are in critical need of new technology leaders. With nearly 500,000 IT job vacancies, meeting this hiring crisis vis-a-vis local partnerships will be more advantageous than outsourcing. The average technology salary is 50% higher than entry-level private sector jobs.

Some critics suggest that TechHire is a false start—a stop-gap measure that might provide a temporary band-aid for unemployment, but one that doesn’t help people earn a four-year degree, preventing them from nimble transitions in the workforce. This is not a higher ed alternative, however; the plan is designed to work with all elements of the evolving learning ecosystem—universities, colleges, community colleges, and non-traditional education programs, e.g, coding boot camps and field-experience. Also, many of the tech careers with vacancies, such as a computer network specialist, demand a solid knowledge base, but don’t necessarily require an advanced degree.

The official TechHive press release stated:
 
"Over 20 forward-leaning communities are committing to take action—working with each other and with national employers—to expand access to tech jobs. To kick off TechHire, 21 regions, with over 120,000 open technology jobs and more than 300 employer partners in need of this workforce, are announcing plans to work together to new ways to recruit and place applicants based on their actual skills and to create more fast track tech training opportunities. The President is challenging other communities across the country to follow their lead."

Twenty-one communities are stepping up and responding to the President’s call-to-action, including: Louisville, New York City, Philadelphia, Delaware, City of Kearney and Buffalo County, NE, Colorado, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Nashville, Rochester, Detroit, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Chattanooga, and Portland.

But how would the plan actually work in New York City, for example? With employers in NYC like Microsoft, Verizon, Goldman Sachs, Google, and Facebook, the Tech Talent Pipeline is committing to prepare college students in the City University of New York system for jobs and connect them to paid internship opportunities at local tech companies. NYC will also expand successful models like the NYC Web Development Fellowship serving 18-26 year olds without a college degree in partnership with the Flatiron School.

It’s also notable that while there are fewer job vacancies for audiovisual professionals versus pure IT, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Media & Communication Equipment Workers' average salary is $68,810. The Bureau classifies the career category this way: "Set up, operate, and monitor audio, video, and digital equipment for concerts, sports events, meetings and conventions, presentations, and news conferences.s also notable that while there are fewer job vacancies for audiovisual professionals versus pure IT, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Media & Communication Equipment Workers' average salary is $68,810. The Bureau classifies the career category this way: "Set up, operate, and monitor audio, video, and digital equipment for concerts, sports events, meetings and conventions, presentations, and news conferences.” While there are vetted certification programs for AV pros and managers of converged technologies, e.g., InfoComm CTS, BICSI, and CompTIA, in my experience, a pro AV career doesn’t usually require a four-year college degree.

As college tuition continues to skyrocket at an alarming rate, should more attention be paid—in systematic ways such as TechHire—to AV industry careers? What’s your job training experience? Would your organization, school, or company want to get involved in the TechHire grant competition? Please share your perspective in the comments section.

Check out the full TechHire fact sheet here:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/03/09/fact-sheet-president-obama-launches-new-techhire-initiative


Margot Douaihy is the Editorial Director of NewBay Media’s AV Technology, Tech Manager Today, EDUwire, & On/Off Campus.

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