Tuition-free, customized tech training helps improve access and equity in America’s technology workforce
Jan. 19, 2021 | By Faith Rottmann Johnson, Vice President of Human Resources, TEKsystems
As a global provider of technology, business and talent solutions, TEKsystems has been in the industry for nearly 40 years. Being a company rooted in technology, we understand the IT talent market. We have been facing a talent shortage for years—well before the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand continues to grow. 2021 only continued to illustrate that there are simply not enough people in the IT talent pipeline and that barriers to hiring and advancing talent remain. To inspire decision-makers, I want to share my perspective about the state of the IT talent pool and how I believe we can create pathways for those underrepresented in the industry, including communities of color and women.
State of the IT Market
When you consider the overall labor market, some industry sectors have experienced record gains, but lack of talent remains a major barrier to additional growth. December jobless claims fell close to pre-pandemic levels. The decline in jobless claims provides more evidence that job growth is being hindered by labor shortages rather than a cooling of demand for workers. The labor shortage is exasperated in IT where unemployment is at historically low levels (2.1% in November) and demand is relentless. Employers posted nearly 6 million IT job openings in the last 12 months alone.1
With IT jobs projected to grow at a rate of 14%—twice the national rate over the next decade—this isn’t a challenge that is likely to go away.2 Simply put, the technology talent pipeline is not growing fast enough organically.
More Access to Tech Careers
Traditional forms of education, such as bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, are not producing enough people, and these programs may not be accessible to everyone, such as communities who are underrepresented in technology. There is a lack of access to higher education, training and opportunity. Whether financial or family obligations, they simply don’t have access. In addition, there are avoidable barriers to employment, like education and experience minimums, that are keeping great people from starting IT careers. That’s where leaders and hiring managers—the decision-makers—can step in to create more access to opportunity for more people. There are solutions for the future of the IT workforce, such as alternative talent pipelines—nontraditional paths to a career in IT. Nearly every employer needs technology talent—not only big tech companies. The demand spans across industries. Therefore, we need bold, innovative and inclusive solutions to attract and develop more talent and provide equitable access to those underrepresented in technology.
Power of Partnership
We believe our partnership with Per Scholas, a national organization that has been advancing economic mobility for 25 years, is workforce development innovation not just for now but for what’s next. Per Scholas has helped open doors for thousands of individuals to build successful careers in technology and generate economic development in their communities. In fact, nearly 90% of Per Scholas learners are people of color, while 40% of the current IT workforce are people of color.3 More than one-third of Per Scholas learners are women, as compared to only a quarter of the current IT workforce.4
of Per Scholas students are people of color5
of the current IT workforce are people of color6
Working together since 2015, the partnership between TEKsystems and Per Scholas has been a very intentional evolution. When we saw the success alternative training pathways were having in communities, we recognized the opportunity to scale that impact by helping bring training to more markets. Together, we are building diverse talent pipelines by providing training courses across the U.S., launching in three new cities in 2021 alone and five since the onset of the pandemic.
of Per Scholas students identify as women7
of the current IT workforce are women8
Accelerate Business, Advance Opportunity
At TEKsystems, we accelerate business transformation for our customers, bringing real-world expertise to solve complex technology, business and talent challenges—at global scale. But building tomorrow is more than accelerating business outcomes. Personally, I’m proud to serve on the National Board of Per Scholas. TEKsystems’ partnership with Per Scholas provides free technology skills training and professional development, tailored to business needs, to highly motivated learners from underrepresented talent pools. We match these talented graduates, who now are newly skilled, upskilled or reskilled, to employers, and we provide career support throughout the process.
TEKsystems and Per Scholas Partnership
We know our customers need the job done and done right. Our Per Scholas graduates are skilled in the challenges customers face today. They have the knowledge and the commitment to contribute from day one. We know our graduates. We’ve been working with them throughout their training, understanding their capabilities and their career goals. We want to find them the right career for continued success long after that first job they land upon completing their Per Scholas training. We want to connect our customers to talent with the customized knowledge that can help them transform their business and achieve their business goals. Our customers can reach those goals while positively impacting the communities they serve—providing access and opportunity to people underrepresented in the industry.
This partnership brings together our business purpose with our commitment to corporate social responsibility and driving inclusion and diversity across our industry. It has been all we hoped it would be: the chance to take our core purpose of creating opportunity while possibly changing the future of these individuals’ and their families’ legacies. It’s a win-win. We’re proud of this partnership and being a part of making future IT career opportunities accessible and equitable for all.
Enact Change in the Tech Industry
To effectively change and improve access and equity in the tech industry, it takes purposeful planning from leaders and hiring managers—all decision-makers. I hope to motivate decision-makers to be intentional and look to create more pathways to careers in IT. Consider removing boundaries to employment that may not be necessary in finding quality talent. Be open and willing to seek out alternative talent pools. As a society, I hope we will continue to build more opportunities for workforce development programs and access to alternative education.
In the coming weeks, we will share perspectives from the people behind our Per Scholas partnership to highlight their stories and help inspire decision-makers. Together, we can empower more people to succeed in IT and positively impact our communities at large.
About the Author
Faith Rottmann Johnson believes in the power of people—their ability to create lasting, positive change in their workplace and in their communities. She currently oversees strategic human resources and corporate social responsibility programs globally at TEKsystems. She has over 26 years of experience as a human resources professional. Faith supports the company’s strategic priorities of building a high-performance team and enhancing the employee experience through strategic human resources management, talent acquisition, talent management, corporate social responsibility and employee relations.