Inspiring Success

A blog from Creating IT Futures

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March 3, 2016

Finding New Tech Workers through New Pipelines

By Sue Wallace

During the Tech Cities 2016 Conference at the University of Minnesota last month, attendees learned about how to build their own tech worker pipelines. With unemployment still low, especially in the tech workforce, employers need to think outside the box to find new and qualified employees.

A panel of executives from IBM, Fairview Health Services and MN.IT Services showcased how they’re working with schools, government and non-profits to revamp their hiring practices and reach out to the community to get more people interested in IT careers.

IBM is a leader in creating the P-Tech schools, which allow high school students to graduate with both a diploma and an associate’s degree over the course of six years.

“A high school diploma is no longer a ticket to the middle class,” said Charlotte Johnson, corporate citizenship and corporate affairs manager, IBM. “In the P-Tech schools, students get workplace experience along the way. The skills they’re learning get applied in a workplace environment.”

IBM works with the students and teachers on skills mapping, coursework, mentoring, worksite visits, and paid internships.

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“The schools meet the student where they are in their learning,” added Johnson. “Students have a support system, but they’re not being pushed. Students accelerate at their own pace. The focus is on mastery, not seat time.”

Last year, the first P-Tech students in Brooklyn graduated. Three of the six graduates went onto four-year college, and the other three now work for IBM at age 18 making $50,000-75,000 a year. All graduated within four years with an Associates in Applied Science degree in computer information systems, awarded by New York City College of Technology.

Laura Beeth, system director, talent acquisition, Fairview Health Services, noted that they have 1200 job openings, of which 400 of them are in IT. “We have an older IT workforce ready to retire. We’re posting more entry-level jobs now,” said Beeth.

Fairview is the largest company in Minneapolis and one of the top 10 largest in Minnesota. They work with non-profits Genesys Works, STEP-UP Achieve and Scrubs Camp to get high school students work experience. To help college students, Fairview partners with Augsburg College, University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, Saint Paul College and Minneapolis Community & Technical College. They also have student affiliation agreements with 11 other colleges. From career success tips and resume critiques to internships and classroom presentations, the partnerships help students build meaningful work experience prior to graduation.

Last year, Fairview partnered with Creating IT Futures’ and its /developing-programs/it-ready">IT-Ready program in Cedar-Riverside. IT-Ready works with unemployed and underemployed people who already have at least a high school diploma or GED. Beyond learning skills to pass the CompTIA A+ certification exam, IT-Ready targets professional development to refine critical business skills, such as communications and presentation, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. Fairview hired Ahmed Mohamed, one of the graduates, who started work last month.

MN.IT Services provides information technology for the Minnesota government. They’re under pressure to find new IT workers. Jenna Bergmann, strategic recruitment director, MN.IT Services, said that the average age of its 2,000+ person staff is 52 years old, and only 3 percent of the staff is under the age of 30. “We’re changing the culture on how we hire, what we look for and how we keep them,” said Bergmann. To prepare its new employees, MN.IT is building mentorship programs and training to replace older workers. They are also reaching out to non-profits like Creating IT Futures to find new hires.

With the current tech workforce aging up and the number of IT jobs increasing each year – 62 percent more open IT jobs were posted online last year – employers need to go beyond simply posting job ads to find new employees. They need to create their own pipelines and train people to IT careers. Creating IT Futures and other non-profits and government groups can help.