From computer support specialists to mechanical and medical technicians, many of today’s jobs in computers, advanced manufacturing and other growth industries require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. Plus, apprenticeships are rapidly gaining steam nationwide to directly give participants hands-on work experiences while they learn skills necessary for these and other jobs.
On a panel last month at the 2017 U.S. News STEM Solutions Conference, Charles Eaton, CEO, Creating IT Futures/Executive Vice-President, Social Innovation, CompTIA, examined the variety of opportunities available and discussed the promising programs and effective strategies implemented by Creating IT Futures that are helping professionals young and old get trained and get hired in tech.
“Most of the tech jobs are being filled by people who are already in tech,” said Eaton. “If you’re in tech job A and you leave that for tech job B, now tech job A needs to be filled, and that’s likely to be filled by someone already in the business.”
Eaton explained the lack of churn in the tech space, stating that the industry grew occupation-wise by 2.5 percent in 2016, which is cause for the current tech skills gap.
“The skills gap is complicated,” added Eaton. “It’s a pay gap, it’s a trust gap where employers are not willing to give someone new to the industry a chance. It’s also a geography gap because in some locations, the jobs are not there.”
Eaton went on to say that more than half of STEM jobs are so-called middle-skill jobs, where well-paid jobs are available without the need for a bachelor’s degree. Still, he says, employers are struggling to find enough workers with the right skills for these jobs, and the demand for middle-skill workers is only expected to grow during the next decade.
“Half the jobs in technology are in what you would call the tech industry,” said Eaton. “The other half are in banking, healthcare, aerospace, and so on, and that’s one of the biggest myths we see is that if you are going to work in tech, you have to work at Apple, Google, or Facebook. It’s a myth that could discourage today’s teens from becoming tomorrow’s technologists and prevent them from closing the tech skills gap for us.”
Creating IT Futures helps train employees who are under-represented in IT and who don’t have the opportunity to be trained for information technology careers through several ways, most notably IT-Ready.
IT-Ready provides eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based education and training free of charge. The program targets students from audiences that include unemployed, under-employed and displaced workers; women and ethnic minorities who are under-represented in the IT industry; and veterans and their spouses.
During IT-Ready, students learn skills that equip them for an entry-level position within the tech industry — skills that include building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems and setting up and managing networks.
IT-Ready also instills knowledge about softer professional skills such as effective communication, customer service and job interviewing. At the end of the eight-week program, IT-Ready students take the CompTIA A+ certification exam. IT-Ready alumni are encouraged to study for and take certification tests to earn additional CompTIA credentials, free of charge, up to a year after graduating.
Entering the IT field, Eaton added, is the most difficult for women and people of color. “But once you are in, you are judged by your skills,” he concluded.