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September 23, 2020

How to Narrow the Tech Skills Gap While Recovering from a Pandemic

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in technology occupations is projected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations, adding more than half a million new jobs before the end of this decade.


But how can our workforce rise to meet this level of demand for technology skills?


What analysts call the “tech skills gap” already leaves about half a million tech positions unfilled at any given time in our nation’s job market. And our economy is working to recover from pandemic conditions.


Randi Parker, senior director, partner engagement, for Creating IT Futures advises technologists concerned about this situation to get involved early – and stay involved.


In her role, Parker’s focus is finding and facilitating ways for Creating IT Futures partners, such as TSA, the Technology Student Association, to work more closely with our other programs such as IT-Ready and TechGirlz. She also motivates volunteers from the ranks of working technologists.


During a recent episode of our Technologist Talk podcast, Parker explains to host R.C. “Bob” Dirkes how working technologists and their employers can help narrow the nation’s tech skills gap by becoming involved as volunteers, donors or sponsors in Creating IT Futures programs.


Here’s an edited transcript of the conversation:


Randi Parker: Our workforce needs are changing. The jobs of 50 years ago certainly hardly exist today… and there are new jobs that we need that we just don't have the workforce to fill.


The bigger challenge is there are so many ways to spin the wheels around [this challenge]. People are talking about it, but they're not actually doing. Our role, and what makes us unique, is that we have all these programs that are in place and have been in place for a long time… We have a proven track record. They can engage with us and learn from us.


And so, we are trying to set ourselves out as a role model. We want to grow as much as we can to help as many people as we can.


I think people don't expect Creating IT Futures to have as much activity as we do. I think they tend to know us for one thing. They know us for TechGirlz. Or they know us for IT-Ready. Or they know that we are connected somehow to CompTIA. But they don't understand all the work that we're doing, and that we really have opportunities to bring people into IT careers starting at middle school all the way up to adults.


People are talking all the time… they want to try to find ways to help get the workers they need, develop their workers, bring more people into the industry – just as  good citizens of the industry. But they're not quite sure how to do it.


…If you don't have someone that's looking across all the different streams, then everything is going to work in a silo, and nothing is ever better working alone. We have so many great programs. And, if we could deepen engagement with the people so that they're engaged in more than one place, it's going to be more meaningful engagement for them working with us as a charity.


My role is to make sure that the people [working with us] as other nonprofits or corporate partners or government partners… understand the full suite of options that we have to offer.


Bob Dirkes: Do you find when you're talking to a potential partner that they would tend to think in silos instead of tending to think across an organization? Just because in a corporate environment like where so many of us operate, it's just the way we're trained. We tend to be focused on the tactical first.


Randi: [Many people in the industry] talk specifically just about the cybersecurity workforce. We are starting to see a change and a bit of a shift [to talking about] the technology workforce. That's really important because that's what it is: It's the technology workforce.


IT is cyber and cyber is IT. We have to stop acting like they're two different things because they're not. They're connected and I think that we limit ourselves when we call something a cyber issue or IT issue.


All the CompTIA certifications, even the most basic ones, have cybersecurity components to them. In the years and years of having these conversations, [I’ve heard] people say, "Well, I want to talk to you about IT." Or, "I want to talk to you about cybersecurity."


You can't have those conversations separately. And so, one of the things I'm trying to do is help us see that IT-Ready is more than IT-ready.


Bob: Do you find that the focus is on adults, or after high school, instead of youth?


Randi: Very few are really looking at it comprehensively. And I think that's something that helps us stand out. We really try to see things from early years to older.


We're constantly exploring. We'll go to conferences or attend panels where people are speaking about the need for cyber workforce or IT workforce or technology workers. That's when we go into them and say, "Well, look, we agree. These are things that we're doing, we'd love to work with you. Let us share with you what we're doing."


We're not always just looking for dollars… These conversations are about coming together with like-minded organizations that could help support the work that we're doing and then make it even stronger.


Technologist Talk is a podcast produced by CompTIA’s tech workforce charity, Creating IT Futures, where we talk to business leaders, workforce professionals and talent developers about shaping technology careers.


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