While unemployment is now down to 13.3 percent, there are still more than 20 million people out of work. Of the jobs lost to COVID-19, less than one percent were tech jobs, with an IT unemployment rate of 4.3%. In 2020 Q1, there were over 1 million core IT job postings by U.S. employers.
On the recent Virtual Upskilling Opportunities in Cybersecurity webinar for the National Governors Association, Mark Plunkett, Senior Director, Training Operations & Business Development, shared how CompTIA works with industry and government to provide alternate on-ramps for tech careers and to build the tech talent pipeline in response to the needs from states and local communities.
“We have a consultative approach,” Plunkett explained. “We ask the following questions: what are the local, regional or statewide needs? Where are the open unfulfilled jobs? What are the reskilling needs? What is industry asking for?” Based on the responses, CompTIA builds and scales a solution that meets the needs either directly or working with partners.
To date, CompTIA has delivered training to more than 70+ entities/agencies, has trained thousands and has ongoing projects to train thousands more. Plunkett highlighted a program in El Paso, TX, in which CompTIA trained and certified 95 people, including transitioning veterans and career changers through Workforce Solutions Borderplex. “We reskilled, trained and certified them in CompTIA’s core and Cybersecurity certifications, validating 15 different tech/cybersecurity job roles,” Plunkett said.
CompTIA was already delivering direct virtual training solutions long before the Pandemic hit, but Plunkett acknowledged the landscape has changed. As of April 15, online tests may be scheduled for all CompTIA certifications except for CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer (CTT+), providing a convenient and secure way for people to certify. For virtual training options, people do need access to technology and connectivity with states supporting these initiatives.
Three options are widely available now. Online self-paced learning uses CompTIA comprehensive e-learning CertMaster, an interactive learning tool which includes performance-based questions to test individual skills. A mentored learning approach has virtual instructor-led training classroom support which Plunkett says has seen huge demand on the state level. Students can learn at their own speed, their own level and at their own convenience all with the support of experienced instructors to guide them through the learning process. For many, especially those who have jobs but want to expand or develop their IT skills, this program is a great option.
The third offering is fully virtual online instructor-led training over full or half days depending on the need. “We are providing the same experience as the in-person classroom. A lot of studies have shown that virtual training can actually be more effective than in-person training with the right approach and offering. All training, whether it is in person or virtual, needs to have outcomes, needs to have rigor,” Plunkett stated.
The outcome may be taking and passing an exam, getting a foot in the door to an IT career or reskilling to a new job. According to Plunkett, “no matter what, it needs to have flexibility in approach. There should be labs — or simulated environments — along with interactive content that tests the skills, with performance-based questions, not just the theory. And, there needs to be reporting analytics with an LMS, a holistic approach that mirrors the workplace, completing tasks and proof points as individuals progress. Not just to pass an exam, but a well-rounded skill set with soft skills and technical acumen mixed together. And, it needs to have recognized industry certifications whether that’s through CompTIA or somebody else.”
The offering is direct accelerated, targeted, flexible and customized solutions. “We fill these vital components when building a program for virtual training, mentored learning or a hybrid offering. On average, 86% of individuals complete all of the training and 87% of those that complete get placed into an IT role and certified,” Plunkett stated.
The CompTIA direct programs deliver training within many workforce programs as well as pre-apprenticeship programs. “We partner with states directly and we work with them on funding availability. The programs are typically funded by organizations or state and federal workforce system funding. Individuals do not pay out of their own pocket,” he explained. CompTIA currently works with many states to prepare the workforce for tech careers.
On the national level, CompTIA partners with organizations such as Apprenti for many cohorts — virtually and in person — for apprenticeship programs and with the Cognizant U.S. Foundation for the Wounded Warrior Project program to train as many as 2000 individuals. “We support workforce investment boards nationally, to implement tech training programs where we build programs that give individuals the opportunity to gain core knowledge and a platform to build their tech career. Through all of these programs there are so many examples of individuals who have no previous IT experience, go through our programs and relaunch their careers. These programs have real life impacts and it builds confidence as well as soft skills and technical ability. We are trying to make IT accessible for everyone,” added Plunkett.
Organizations use the training and certifications to enhance their employees’ skill set and validate competency. One example of this is the partnership between CompTIA and Amazon Career Choice, where CompTIA welcomed students to virtual classes for CompTIA A+ and CompTIA Network+ certification training, offered at 15 Amazon locations in eight states across the United States. Career Choice is an innovative Amazon program uniquely designed to upskill employees who are interested in pursuing a future outside of Amazon.
Plunkett wants people to know that there simply isn’t enough tech talent and trained individuals to fill the open jobs that exist today. “A career in tech needs to be accessible to everyone and can be very rewarding,” Plunkett said. “We help remove the barriers and bring scalable industry recognized solutions that can make a difference to your organization, your state or your community.”