Earlier this month, President Barack Obama announced the $100 million TechHire initiative, a new campaign to work with communities to get more Americans rapidly trained for well-paying technology jobs – not just in Silicon Valley but across the country.
The plan’s goals to help fill the 500K open tech jobs through non-traditional methods shows promise with long-term benefits for America’s workforce and the economy. But there are some potential hurdles to overcome for companies and communities, especially when it comes to the specific recruiting and hiring components. While large companies may find TechHire has some inherent challenges, small businesses and startups in communities across the country can benefit greatly from the new program.
If there are limitations, they’ll be centered around recruitment and hiring standards. Large companies that are looking to fill positions in engineering, IT, programming and related fields usually require five to eight years experience for a mid-level role. If recruiters at these companies are looking for a seasoned tech professional, it may be hard for them to consider a candidate that has learned the required skills in a six-month class or a certification boot camp. As a result, the TechHire program is likely to meet resistance at the corporate level where hiring managers are looking for large numbers of qualified workers.
If a company did decide to consider a less-experienced candidate, the next hurdle to overcome would be the interview. Currently, most companies use behavior-based interviewing that focuses on questions about past workplace scenarios and predicting what the candidate’s future performance will look like. If a candidate doesn’t have years of experience and has yet to apply their newly acquired skills on the job, the question set will have to change.
For TechHire participants to successfully land tech jobs, interviewers will have to shift focus to questions about specific certifications or more general workplace experience not related to the specific skills required for the position.
College degrees may remain the gold standard, but presidential backing lends credibility to these alternate forms of education and credentialing.
Large corporations with teams of recruiters, a lot of positions to fill, and strict hiring guidelines may not be able to easily take advantage of TechHire. This is why I think the greatest potential for TechHire is in the small business space. Small businesses generally have more flexibility in their hires, and many employees wear multiple hats. Learning technical skills in an accelerated course or boot camp could be the perfect tool for founders of a startup or a small business employee looking to expand their skills and their role within the company.
Another great part of the TechHire program is the local aspect. The initiative lays out a plan for communities to build local strategies and partnerships to connect people to jobs, investing in and working with industry-trusted organizations that will vouch for those who have the skills to do the job but who may lack the typical degrees and career experience. Keeping the approach focused locally and regionally gives leaders a sense of ownership and accountability and will gain more traction than most other aspects of the program.
This has the potential to give communities outside of Silicon Valley a stronger presence in the tech industry, but is also good news for startups and companies in the Valley looking to expand their candidate search and legitimize new forms of certification and learning.
College degrees may remain the gold standard, but presidential backing lends credibility to these alternate forms of education and credentialing. If companies are willing to accept someone who doesn’t have the degrees, background and proven successes, but has learned the required technical skills and received key certifications, they may see great potential in the TechHire initiative and the wider pool of talent it can bring to the tech sector.
April 14, 2015