Eric Larson 2018-02-28 00:45:53
The Time is Ripe for Tech Apprenticeships THE U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts by 2024 there will be more than 1.2 million open jobs in information technology due to a combination of industry growth and Baby Boomer retirements. This trend has troubling implications for the entire U.S. economy, because employer demand for tech talent already routinely outstrips the available supply. Analysts estimate at least half a million open IT positions already go unfilled in the U.S. during any given calendar quarter. This looming IT skills gap is forcing many organizations to rethink approaches to recruiting, training and talent management. For example, for CompTIA’s latest IT research brief—“Employer Perceptions of IT Apprenticeships”—we asked more than 550 U.S. hiring managers about issues they face. More than two thirds (67%) expect filling openings with the right candidate to be challenging during the next two years. Moreover, nearly all (99%) note at least one specific challenge they currently endure, such as finding candidates with the right level of experience, finding candidates with the right “hard” technical skills and identifying candidates with the right “soft” business skills. Our recent study revealed that six in 10 hiring managers have a generally positive view of apprenticeships, with most of the remaining respondents holding a neutral perception (38%) and a minute group expressing negative opinions (2%). Regarding IT apprenticeships, eight in 10 managers polled believe the concept has merit. Furthermore, a large group (83 %) could envision their company exploring a formal IT apprenticeship program. As advocates for the IT industry, we find this new openness to the classical apprenticeship model refreshing and encouraging. Why? Because apprenticeship is a time-tested technique for rapid skills development which can begin closing the tech talent gap in comparatively short order. Specifically, apprenticeships enable employers to tap three potential sources of IT talent: • Skilled workers in other fields —Consider the field of cybersecurity as a case study. A 2017 study shared by the Wall Street Journal showed about 87 % of professionals now working in cybersecurity did not start there. Nearly a third (30 %) came to their positions from fields outside technology, such as marketing, finance, and the military. Fully a third of chief information security officers and other upper levels in cybersecurity today started with roles outside IT departments, researchers reported. These findings suggest many companies need look no farther than their own ranks to find viable cybersecurity talent, so long as they are willing to look beyond the IT department. • Groups currently underrepresented in it—Our organization’s pre-apprenticeship training program, IT-Ready, offers eight weeks of intensive, classroom-based education and training free of charge. We seek participants from groups currently under-represented in the IT industry, including: unemployed, under-employed and displaced workers, women, ethnic minorities, and veterans and their spouses. IT-Ready students learn skills that include building a computer from parts, installing software, troubleshooting problems, and setting up and managing networks. We also instill softer professional skills, such as effective communication, customer service, and job interviewing. At the end of the eight-week program, IT-Ready students take our A+ certification exam and are encouraged to pursue other CompTIA credentials, such as Security+, free of charge after graduating. We connect the graduate to local companies with whom we have close relationships. The students are ready for paid work, be it a full-time tech support role or an apprenticeship that leads to a specialization such as cyber-security. Our experience over the past five years has convinced us that non-traditional students can be viable candidates for IT apprenticeships. • Students under-trained in college—In one of our other studies, “Assessing the IT Skills Gap,” 87 % of the 600 U.S. IT and business executives surveyed across a variety industries agreed with the statement “Colleges are not sufficiently preparing students for today’s jobs” including cybersecurity, which ranked among our poll’s top five IT skills gap areas. Companies can apply the apprenticeship solution to this channel, too, by creating what we call “sustained internship” programs. In short, college students (and sometimes qualified high school candidates) work as interns for the same organization summer after summer with the promise of a full-time position upon graduation. This approach lends a real-world immediacy to cybersecurity awareness and other technology training often lacking in classroom settings. In Chicago, our home market, we collaborate on this approach with Accenture, Cisco, and IBM. To add greater weight to our argument, yet another of our recent studies— “Youth Opinions of Careers in Information Technology”—indicates apprenticeships are a viable means of interesting teenagers in IT jobs. About four in 10 teens we canvassed recognized apprenticeships as a credible source of career guidance. We believe that today’s college students— not to mention tomorrow’s high school graduates—are open to apprenticeships as their entry into tech careers. So, whether focusing on talent inside or outside an organization, apprenticeships can supply companies with a more predictable, sustainable pipeline of applicants, while providing new technology workers with necessary experience, education, and mentorship. Through apprenticeships, businesses can overcome the current scarcity of tech professionals and prepare their workforce for today’s—and tomorrow’s—IT challenges, such as cybersecurity. There’s no shortage of evidence: Today’s workforce and employers say they are ready for apprenticeships. The question remains: Will companies bite the bullet and deploy this powerful model to bridge the IT skill gap? The economy is waiting for an answer. Eric Larson is senior director of Creating IT Futures’ signature initiative, IT Futures Labs, which discovers and develops research, projects, programs, and best practices for charting new pathways to tech careers. Top Apprenticeship Program Benefits Organizations Could realize or Have Realized 1 Opportunity to train workers to suit needs (63%) 2 Opportunity to address skills gaps early in a worker's career (50%) 3 Opportunity to engage with local schools, community colleges & other feeders (44%) 4 Opportunity to hire an employee loyal to the company (43%) 5 Opportunity to hire a worker ready to contribute from day one (43%) 6 Opportunity to attract a more diverse pool of candidates (41%)
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