Creating a 21st Century Workforce: Apprenticeships

1200px-USCapitolRotundaSince its inception, the technology industry has ushered in radical changes.  It’s the driving force behind the transformative products and services that are making our lives healthier, more convenient, more productive, and frankly, easier. These products and services garner headlines and generate a ton of money – the technology industry in the United States alone is worth about $1 trillion. Behind these products are millions of hardworking Americans. In fact, there are about 7 million in the U.S. technology industry, and just over 7 million more technology specialists working in adjacent industries like healthcare, finance, government, and media, to name just a few.

But even these rosy numbers can’t mask the need for more of these talented workers.  In Q4 2016, more than 600,000 technology jobs went unfilled, in large part because of the skills and confidence gaps. What’s more, it’s anticipated that by 2024, nearly 2 million technology jobs will go unfilled. In many respects, as a result of absent targeted reforms by our policymakers in Washington to the programs that upskill Americans, workers won’t be prepared to reap the benefits of the digital economy, jobs will continue to go unfilled, and growth could stagnate.

Against this backdrop, CompTIA is proud to announce the release of its white paper, Creating a 21st Century Workforce: Apprenticeships.

During a webinar last week,  Brent Parton from New America and I  discussed the paper and the need for policymakers to expand apprenticeships to include programs like the CHANCE in Tech Act (H.R. 3174/S. 1518). As the digital economy takes root, there are an increasing number of jobs available that require more than a high school degree, but don’t require a traditional 4-year college degree. Jobs like web development, mobile application development, data administration, computer support specialists, and network support specialists don’t necessarily require employees to have a traditional college degree. And that’s to say nothing of the increasing demand among manufacturers for employees to have some technical expertise. In short, apprenticeships are a commonsense solution to ensure more Americans are equipped with the skills to participate in this new economic landscape.

Apprenticeships are very much a win-win. On one hand, employees are provided the opportunity to acquire new skills from industry experts, while earning a paycheck. What’s more, apprenticeships can help shrink the confidence gap – or a worker’s reticence to pursue a career in the technology industry for fear of having to learn a new skillset, or simply because they don’t see other employees in the field with similar life experiences.

And if you’re an employer, you can witness in real-time how an apprentice might handle a task, while compensating him or her at a reduced, but reasonable rate.

As an organization, CompTIA’s central tenet is to prepare workers both here in the United States and around the world for the digital economy. We believe in tackling workforce issues head-on, and we work to create innovative and thoughtful policy solutions to these issues. The CHANCE in Tech Act, if enacted, would greatly benefit the nation, ensuring more workers can take part in the new economy, and help to spur growth across many industries.  It’s our hope that policymakers in Washington give it thoughtful consideration.

You can listen to the webinar here.

Geoff Lane is CompTIA’s director of government affairs.
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