The tech workforce pipeline is more than a computer science degree and a job with a Silicon Valley tech giant. Getting high school students and their parents to understand this fact is part of the mission of a new think tank from industry advocate and certification-provider CompTIA.
The Center for Technology & Workforce Solutions (CTWS) made its debut on October 24, and it will study and promote policies for training a new generation of tech workers. CTWS’ goal is to create an equitable tech workforce pipeline and influence policymakers through data-driven research.
The think tank seeks to expose more young people and their families to the growing number of on-ramps to tech jobs. Technology-enabled jobs are multiplying worldwide, and CTWS wants workers and educators to be prepared for them. CTWS’ first step is to convince more people how a tech job can be part of their future.
“We’re going to try to bust some myths. We’re going to bust some old paradigms that don’t work and get people to try some new things,” CompTIA President and CEO Todd Thibodeaux said during the CTWS launch event with David Hyman on Facebook Live.
Hyman, the CTWS director, explained that the think tank wants to ensure that every American understands their options in getting a tech or tech-related job and that such jobs are part of nearly every industry. “A career in technology is available regardless of background and education level,” Hyman said.
The industry has relied on traditional four-year colleges to produce computer science graduates to bolster its workforce. At the current rate, there are not enough graduates to overcome the outflow of retiring tech workers through 2026, which CompTIA estimates at nearly 1.3 million workers. Thibodeaux said the industry is facing a “15 to 20 percent shortfall” of new employees entering the workforce.
It’s not just high-skilled tech jobs that need workers, entry-level IT support jobs are wanting for talent too. “Last-mile” training programs like coding bootcamps and work-based learning programs are trying to fill the gap, but they are only picking up where traditional education is leaving off. The majority of students are not receiving even the necessary technical training in high school to develop their digital skill set. This leaves them at an immediate disadvantage where they are ignorant of their potential.
While schools are slowly adapting to the disruption technology is causing on the workforce, their sole focus on STEM and coding end up “disenfranchising” many students from considering a tech role, Thibodeaux said.
“We talk about all these myths and challenges that we have in getting kids to stay interested in tech because they are being brainwashed into thinking they need all these amazing skills,” Thibodeaux said. “They need to have this great science and math background; they need to be coders and all of these things to work effectively in this industry. None of these things are true.”
The majority of entry-level jobs in IT do not require a college degree. The misunderstanding of pathways into the tech industry among young people created a “confidence gap” that prevents young people from considering a tech career. The lack of confidence stems from where people feel they do not have the right aptitude for math and science or are too far behind the technology curve to learn new skills.
New research from CTWS which accompanied the think tank’s launch said that 51 percent of the 18- to 34-year-old survey respondents cited the confidence gap “as definitely or probably a factor” discouraging them from tech careers. Seventy-one percent of those actively considering a tech career cited a lack of confidence too.
According to its website, CTWS will study the solutions that work in bringing about a more equitable and diverse workforce by helping people overcome their fears and misconceptions about tech careers. During the launch event, Thibodeaux mentioned CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures initiative and its IT-Ready program as an example of how to train someone with no computer skills to become a certified entry-level IT worker in eight weeks.
WorkingNation profiled IT-Ready as part of the Do Something Awesome mini-documentary series earlier this year. The accelerated program is connecting students to entry-level IT jobs in several cities. It is a scalable solution that can tap into different and underrepresented talent pools and deliver graduates with the technical and professional skills that will make them an asset to any company.
“Our belief is that anybody can acquire these skills if they have the interest,” said Thibodeaux of the message the think tank will promote. He said that CTWS aims to position itself at the forefront of this discussion to promote job training solutions that prepare workers to adapt to technological displacement.
CTWS has gathered tech industry, education and workforce development experts, including WorkingNation President Jane Oates, to weigh in on the roles stakeholders play in connecting the parts of the workforce pipeline. Their work for the CTWS Advisory Board will help the think tank investigate solutions to closing the gender and diversity gap in tech, to prepare workers for today’s job market and any future disruptions caused by technology.
“The launch of the Center for Technology and Workforce Solutions is good news for employers searching for diverse talent and people trying to learn more about how to land good jobs in tech. Grounded in decades of CompTIA learning the Center will promote user-friendly data, identify best practices in tech teaching and learning and provide industry-tested advice on careers across the technology space,” said Oates. “WorkingNation looks forward to partnering with CTWS to amplify the learnings on opportunities to take advantage of careers in the tech sector.”
Watch the entire Facebook Live video from CompTIA featuring Thibodeaux and Hyman below.
Read CTWS’ inaugural report: Role of Confidence in Tech Career Development.
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