Obama has a $100M plan to fill the tech talent shortage
WIRED: Businesses in the US are on a hiring spree, but jobs that require tech skills sit open—500,000 in all. It’s that gap that the Obama administration hopes to close with its new $100 million TechHire Initiative, announced by the president today. At its core, TechHire aims to convince local governments, businesses, and individuals that a four-year degree is no longer the only way to gain valuable tech skills.
This doesn’t just apply to San Francisco. This doesn’t just apply to Boston. It applies across the board in every part of the country. “It turns out it doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are at writing code,” Obama said. “If you can do the job, you should get the job.”
That’s an idea that training startups like Codecademy and General Assembly, as well as online course companies like Coursera, have been pushing for years. Now, the White House is urging businesses and local governments to embrace that concept, as well.
In Silicon Valley, the idea of non-traditional training as a viable alternative to college is a familiar concept. In the rest of corporate America, not so much. And yet, non-tech industries like financial services and healthcare, are where two-thirds of the country’s tech jobs exist. So, to make this idea more palatable to non-tech employers, TechHire is working to develop some standards for alternative education.
“When companies have job openings they cannot fill, it costs them money,” he said, speaking to thousands of local leaders at the National League of Cities’ annual conference. “If these jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for the workers, but also your city, your country, your state, and our nation.”
To create these standards, the Obama administration is working with the business advisory firm CEB to develop a guide for employers on how to recruit tech workers from less traditional places. It’s also working with a company called Knack to make a standard tech aptitude test free to employers and training organizations. The goal is to make it easy for employers to assess the quality of a job candidate, who doesn’t have a computer science degree on his resume.
There are financial incentives, too. In his speech, Obama announced that the Department of Labor would run a $100 million grant competition to fund programs that have a proven track record of helping underrepresented groups, like women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities, land tech jobs. Through TechHire, the group #YesWeCode also committed to donating $10 million in scholarships, which will fund 2,000 coding bootcamp scholarships for minorities.
So far, over 20 cities and local communities have agreed to share their expertise with one another and help create more training opportunities for tech workers. Several other companies, including Microsoft, Flatiron School, and Dev Bootcamp, have agreed to expand their free and low-cost training courses, and about 300 employers have signed up to recruit and place graduates of these new training programs.
In his speech, the President urged other local leaders to join the fray. “This doesn’t just apply to San Francisco. This doesn’t just apply to Boston,” he said. “It applies across the board in every part of the country.”