As our nation works to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19, the U.S. Congress is considering committing billions of dollars to workforce training programs for millions of Americans who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Great news for many in need. But how does funding from acts of Congress work its way into workforce training?
In a recent episode of the award-winning Technologist Talk podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, Mark Plunkett and Jason Mangold explain how CompTIA Custom Training helps individuals, corporations, government entities, state and national workforce boards, and non-profits across the country optimize workforce funding from Congress and other sources
Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:
Mark Plunkett: We have virtual online instructor-led training, which is whereby we have individuals joining from different locations… but you still have that environment where you're in a class. We've had some really effective solutions delivering that approach. And obviously, then there’s a blended approach where we might be able to mix the two together. So, it really depends on what is the end goal? What does the client need?
Jason Mangold: There are a lot of solutions that CompTIA has that do incorporate self-paced training. So, as we're building out these instructor-led programs, if there is a need for continuous training… we have that self-paced training that we can incorporate… . [Also,] we're creating cohort-based training… creating a team environment, so that individuals are going through this together. That helps. Somebody gets a job at an organization: Who's the first person they're going to refer into it? It's another person that was in their CompTIA training course. That's why we do cohort-based training is to have people together… and we're trying to serve different communities… having people that are going through the same struggles. You know you're not alone. [We are going to] accomplish this together.
Mark: You really [must] have that desire and the support. …To Jason's point, having a group of individuals that are sharing that same struggle… I think is a really cool thing. Because at the end, you've been through it together. You've shared that experience. You know how tough it was, but you know how much you wanted it. And then, that breeds into your career. The fact that you went through that. You gain your certifications. And if you're going through a cohort and you're gaining three to five certifications, that is no mean feat and it's something that should be rewarded.
Bob Dirkes: So, let's talk about how CompTIA's Custom Training team helps the organizations that you serve deliver those rewards?
Mark: The biggest challenge that corporations are having is recruiting new individuals, right? Building that pipeline and getting qualified talent in the doors. So, one approach that they have is to upskill individuals in perhaps lower-level jobs to then fill the pipeline. A lot of our research shows that if we invest in... show appreciation and [present] opportunities [to] individuals, ... they will stay [in their jobs] and they will look to be trained. So, we've got an ITIQ assessment that will validate where the skill level [at a corporation] lies currently in order to see where they want to go.
Jason: We're in an interesting spot, too, as a certification body. So, an individual wants to get certified to better themselves, while an employer wants somebody to learn technology and… get better at a job. We're able to fill that gap. …We can come in and do training on that specific technology. …We can also allow the individuals then to get certified on the back end of it. …We can offer [tech training] with certification[s] to help the employer – the upper management – as well as individuals… That's a unique benefit of CompTIA.
Bob: But the challenges are not the same for government entities as they are for corporations, are they? Especially at the state level?
Mark: I think the fear within the state agencies particularly is, if they invest a lot of time and effort in upskilling, individuals will leave for higher pay jobs in corporate America or wherever it may be.
Bob: And there's a different level of complexity too, is that right, Jason?
Jason: If you've ever looked at an RFP (Editor’s Note: The acronym RFP means “Request for Proposal”) for government training solutions, by the time that RFP comes out it has touched so many different hands in the state government that they are looking for something very, very niche. That's what's unique about our group is that we can go through and read line by line what they're looking for and create a customized solution. That's what's beautiful about CompTIA… We can meet those needs and be agile…
Bob: Regional and national workforce boards have their challenges as well, right?
Jason: Part of the key there is having the conversation with workforce boards around tech… around the opportunities that exist, the tech industry, the jobs that exist, and why they should build programs [for tech jobs.] It's even harder in areas where there may not be a bunch of tech jobs right now. How do we prepare them for two to five years down the road to keep that unemployment rate low? …If you’re in a rural community, and they're just getting high-speed internet for the first time, how do you tell them: "Hey, the jobs of the future in the next two to five years are all going to be tech? Let's create an infrastructure right now, even though there may not be jobs."
Mark: There's still a lot of fear around automation and AI and the internet of things. Part of our role within workforce boards is to remove that fear, remove the barriers, make it easy, comfortable for individuals to enter [tech]. And that's where everyone's going to have a win-win.
Bob: Speaking of win-win situations, don't you go to bat for many of your non-profit customers?
Jason: We support non-profits by going out and helping them procure more funding. We help them by doing the direct training with them so they don't have to keep a trainer on staff, which is a very high cost to a lot of non-profits, and then opening doors to some of our other members and groups inside the association. So, we're able to take nonprofits from a great idea into a sustainable long-term program.
Mark: So, a lot of non-profits are very good at tapping into funding, but, sometimes, they struggle with what to do with that funding to give the best impact. Part of our service is to subcontract us… to build a program that meets the desire of the funding and what the end goal was. [Also,] we can partner to go after funding and [help with] the distributing [those funds.] But secondly, there's a lot of funding out there that isn't being, perhaps, utilized in the best way. And through the services that we've described, we can design the programs and then fulfill them as well.
Jason: When groups… try to create a workforce solution, they struggle because you must bring in so many different partners. You need somebody that can find employers. You need somebody that can deliver training. Somebody that can find students. Somebody that can do all these different pieces.
We create a turnkey solution. So, you don't need to go out and source your books. You don't need to go out and source certifications. You don't need to source a trainer. We have all of that already there. And that's huge. Because every one of these workforce boards or non-profits that create programs, that's three months of work that we're taking off the plate for them. We can come in with data on day one to show that there's an exact need: These are the employers in the area and have training started two months later. We're the only group that I know that can do that.
Technologist Talk is an award-winning podcast produced by Creating IT Futures, CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping the careers of today’s and tomorrow’s technology workers.