Diversity in Tech: Obama’s TechHire Kicks Into Gear With $100M Grant Competition

Diversity in Tech: Obama’s TechHire Kicks Into Gear With $100M Grant Competition

As big Silicon Valley firms up their efforts to diversify their mostly white, male workforces, the Obama administration’s TechHire initiative has begun taking applications for grants from a $100 million fund to help boost the development of IT skills in overlooked communities.

TechHire is a federal initiative launched in March with the aim of helping technology employers, educational institutions, and local governments better prepare Americans for jobs in high tech industries — which the administration says have resorted to hiring talent from outside the country as the U.S. lacks a pool of technically skilled employees large enough to meet the demand.
“When these tech jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for low-wage workers who could transform their earnings potential with just a little bit of training,” said President Obama in his announcement of the TechHire initiative. “And that costs our whole economy in terms of lost wages and productivity.”

According to the White House, there are about 5.5 million jobs open currently, with over half a million job openings in IT fields like software development, network administration, and cybersecurity.

TechHire works to empower citizens lacking the right skills for these technology jobs with programs like coding boot camps, online courses, community college initiatives, and promoting non-traditional hiring among technology companies.
So far, 35 cities, states, and rural communities have begun working together to expand recruiting and training opportunities for high tech jobs. Several big cities with large Latino populations have already begun participating, including New York City, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Jose and Washington, D.C.

With the goal of reaching more than 40 communities by the end of the year, the Obama administration announced this week a $100 million grant competition being administered by the Department of Labor to accelerate technology training. The $100 million will be awarded in H-1B funds (or Technical Skills Training Grants).
At least $50 million of that will be targeted at supporting training and employment in high tech jobs with a focus on young people aged 17 to 29 including underrepresented minorities such as people with disabilities, those with limited English proficiency, and youth with criminal records. As the White House’s fact sheet on the newly open grant applications detailed, over six million millennials are out of school and out of work, representing a huge pool of possible employees for high tech industries.
TechHire’s grants will be awarded to about 30 or 40 grantees that are willing to partner with employers, non-profits, faith-based organizations, labor unions, community colleges, and local and state governments and provide bootcamp programs, online education, and support for career development. The grantees must use data tracking to identify needed skills for employers to help expand openness of non-traditional hiring — giving people without the usual degrees, career experience or hiring profile a chance to get their feet in the door of a high tech career.
The White House says those who gain the skills and start a career in information technology — whether in the manufacturing, advertising, banking, or retail sectors — are expected to make 50 percent higher salaries, on average, than the typical job in America’s private-sector.


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