Every day, businesses across America struggle to fill technology jobs such as Web design, user interface, and software development. Yet millions of individuals struggle to find work, especially African Americans and Hispanics, who are often at double the unemployment rate of whites. Through the White House’s new TechHire Initiative, President Obama has issued a national call-to-action to close the jobs and skills gap to move more Americans to the middle class through “high-quality, job-driven training.”
Yesterday, Business Forward, a national advisory group for businesses, held a conference call on TechHire with several White House representatives to discuss the initiative more in-depth. Representatives on the call included Jeff Zients, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, and Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Assistant to the President to discuss the initiative more in-depth.
TechHire will hold a $100 million grant competition for innovative approaches to connect Americans with disabilities, untapped talented youth, and others to the fastest path to a good job in technology and other in-demand fields. The initiative looks to fast-track the learning curve for tech sector jobs from years to months, expand hiring practices for entry-level positions, and promote diversity.
According to the White House Fact Sheet on the TechHire Initiative, America has about 5 million open jobs today, over half a million of which are in tech fields such as software development, network administration, and cybersecurity. Many of these jobs did not even exist just a decade ago.
The fact sheet goes on to state that the average salary in a job that requires IT skills – whether in manufacturing, advertising, retail, or banking – is 50 percent higher than the average private-sector American job.
Part of the goal for TechHire is to cause human resource and business leaders to use different criteria for evaluating new hires without traditional degrees for the tech sector and beyond, said one White House representative on the call. Current methods of filling tech sector jobs have proven to be much less cost-effective and a zero-sum game as many companies rely on lateral hires instead of bringing new people into the fold.
Smith emphasized that diversity initiatives make better products and improve the bottom line. The White House’s TechHire Initiative is another major stepping stone on the path to diversity and equality in tech skills and employment.
Dorrissa D. Griffin, Esq., serves as Chief of Staff and Staff Counsel for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. She works to advance the civil rights of minorities and women in the nation’s media and telecommunications industries. Dorrissa is a graduate of Florida A&M University College of Law, a member of the Florida Bar, and awaiting membership to the DC Bar.