2017 CompTIA DC Fly-In: Kicking it Off with a Working Lunch on How to Advance the Tech Workforce

WorkingLunch_editThis week, CompTIA held its sixth annual 2017 CompTIA DC Fly-In. Joined by our Fly-In Partner, the Technology Councils of North America (TECNA) and some 20 different state tech councils, there were more than 140 technology executives and business owners representing 29 states who attended the two-day event on February 14 and 15.

We kicked off Fly-In with a working lunch on Tuesday, February 14 titled, “Advancing the Tech Workforce.” Elizabeth Hyman, Executive Vice President, Public Advocacy discussed the CHANCE in TECH Act, an education and workforce proposal that focuses on scaling up the tech workforce through work-based learning solutions like apprenticeships.  At Fly-In, we asked Congress to work with us to turn the CHANCE in Tech (Championing New Careers and Employees in Technology) Act into legislation that can be considered by the appropriate Congressional committees and voted on in both the House of Representatives and Senate.

Increasingly, work-based learning activities like apprenticeships are being included in education and training programs of study for IT.  Galvanizing educators, students, workforces with outmoded skills and employers to adopt alternative education models that include industry-led work-based learning will help fill job openings and jumpstart economic growth. Eligible candidates need to include Early College STEM students and assessed individuals 18+ years old.

Hyman explained, “We want to address the IT skills gap and build the pipeline.  To do that, we need to prepare individuals, and particularly underrepresented students, for IT careers and provide a clear educational pathway for them to learn industry IT skills needed for success.  They must also have meaningful workplace experiences so that they can practice what they learn.”  The proposal would:

  • Develop an education and workforce bill specifically for tech
  • Based on the apprenticeship model developed under the American Apprenticeship Initiative scale up intermediary organizations called “work based learning accelerators” (WBLA)
  • Include in eligibility for the WBLA early college STEM students and assessed individuals 18 and over
  • Recognize and award high schools that align to tech career cluster pathways and have excellence in tech

The next two speakers discussed their programs and how they fit into this larger proposal. Jennifer Carlson, Executive Director, WTIA Workforce Institute explained Apprenti program, the only tech apprenticeship accredited by the State of Washington, funded by US Department of Labor contract. 

Apprenti trains future tech workers with an emphasis on under represented groups including women, minorities, and veterans. The Apprenti model assesses candidates, arranges for two-to-five months training for individuals, thus preparing the individual to begin a one year paid apprenticeship with an employer who partners with the organization. Apprenti is currently the gold standard for apprenticeship programs in the tech sector.  The CHANCE in Tech proposal would seek to scale up these types of intermediary organizations – called work-based learning accelerators (WBLA) -- so that more individuals can benefit from experiential learning and employment opportunity. 

Our final lunch speaker was Charles Eaton, CEO, Creating IT Futures & EVP, Social Innovation, CompTIA. He spoke about Creating IT Futures’ work-based learning experience with Early College STEM Schools and IT-Ready.  

The Early College STEM School programs allow high school students to simultaneously secure their high school diplomas, and work toward an associate’s degrees, and/or IT industry certifications, while gaining industry experience through “Youth Apprenticeships.”  The CHANCE in Tech proposal would include these students in the category of eligibility for WBLAs. 

Creating IT Futures, the IT workforce charity founded by CompTIA, leads its national IT-Ready career program from its office in Edina, Minn. The program provides eight weeks of full-time technical and soft-skills training at no cost to participants, who are unemployed or under-employed individuals. Graduates then sit for the vendor-neutral CompTIA A+ certification exam. Certified graduates are placed into on-the-job work experiences with local employers. Combined with its partners in the IT-Ready Network, already more than 1,000 adults have been trained and more than 90% have been placed in IT jobs either as apprentices or full-time hires, and Creating IT Futures is on a mission to train another 4,000 adults by 2018. That 90% rate is highly successful compared to most workforce development programs that average around 30%.

Eaton said, “Programs like ours can be attached to Apprenti.  Both are vetted and allow employers to make the immediate IT hires they need…the key here is this: quality and consistency and it is possible.  It’s all about execution.”