To Build a Better Tech Workforce, We Can’t Solve Today’s Problems

potentially with the economy on the verge of recession And job opportunities in the tech industry are still scarce record heightMany technology executives across the country are reverting to a similar set of economic dynamics from two decades ago.

In the years between the dot-com bust and the Great Recession of 2008, companies were navigating a degree of economic uncertainty that would be unrecognizable today. At the time, offshoring dominated the headlines, and as they looked for ways to cut costs and boost profits, an increasing number of businesses looked overseas for new sources of talent.

I saw this change as a senior IT leader at a major company in the early 2000s, when we adopted a strategy to fill open jobs with casual workers in India and other countries.

Faced with a rapidly growing need for technology skills, we were looking for talent everywhere, and looking to develop overseas as the best way to develop as cost-effectively as possible. Companies then weren’t laying off local workers or outsourcing every single job. But like many of our peers, we certainly paused our US growth to focus on other markets.

That level of offshoring made a significant impact overseas, contributing to substantial economic growth in other countries. But it also had an effect at home.

In the mid-2000s, the number of computer science graduates in the US declined sharply, due in no small part to the perception among students and families that those desirable technical jobs were being filled by workers from other countries. even though only a small percentage of the jobs were really offshore In the early days, the narrative was powerful enough to keep people off those jobs—or the avenues of education to reach them.

It was so powerful in fact that a group of business leaders and education organizations in my hometown of Cincinnati responded by forming a local coalition, interrelationshipSpecially designed to rebuild the technical talent in this field.

In other words, within a few short years, we were investing in combating the narrative that we ourselves helped to perpetuate.

Today I am not in charge of the technical workforce for a large company. But my work in service of diversity challenges in the tech sector puts me in the middle of talent conversations with tech leaders at various companies who are once again beginning to “rethink” their approach to undertaking formal projects. .

What’s troubling is that even though a lot has changed over the past 20 years, these hiring projects look very familiar. They are often actively involved with staffing firms to bring in more outsourced talent, or even—once again—offshoring and targeting H-1B visa holders.

None of them are bad ideas in themselves, but a lot has changed over the past decade. In the mid-2000s, searching overseas for a ready and more cost-effective source of technical talent was a viable answer to cost management in times of increasing demand. There were only a few options.

Today, we know more about the long-term effects of underinvesting in the growth of the US tech workforce. And now we have solutions already developed across the country that promise immediate and long-term benefits for companies and workers, eliminating the repetition of offshoring practices that were planned decades ago.

For example, we know that millions of workers in America have Skills to Succeed in Technical Roles But is consistently overlooked by employers who insist on a four-year degree. We know that a faster, cheaper alternative to a bachelor’s degree can help aspiring technology workers master the skills today’s labor market needs – and those alternative routes could be transformative. salary benefits,

We know that regional coalitions of employers, training providers, and community organizations—such as cities Buffalo, houston, And Louisville, KentuckyBoth can counter regional economic stagnation and create more opportunities for people to access full, family-sustaining jobs.

And we know that the rise of remote and hybrid work is enabling companies to increase access to good jobs for workers across the country rather than in traditional technology hubs.

Yet many employers still haven’t changed their hiring methods to recognize the potential of these other routes, or to explicitly screen in workers. Stars (efficient via alternate routes), Instead of investing the time and energy needed to build a strong and sustainable tech workforce within the U.S. economy, many businesses are choosing strategies they know—looking foreign or hunting down talent from their competitors. Huh.

Again, those strategies are not bad in a vacuum. But if we act as if they are the only answer to this supply-demand challenge, we close the door of opportunity for the millions of Americans who are seeking access to some of our economy’s highest-paid and most secure jobs of the future. can reach.

The good news is that some leading organizations have decided to look for innovative solutions to address the tech-talent shortage. big companies like Accenture And ibmas well as the state governments like marylandDetailing degree requirements from job descriptions and recognizing the ability to recruit, train and support STARs.

It’s time for more companies to do the same.

More companies have the opportunity to strengthen their pipeline of technology talent, while also paving the way for economic mobility for the workers who need them most. Given That Black, Hispanic and Female Stars Have to Face disproportionate constraints As for opportunity, creating new avenues for these workers will help businesses meet the urgent need to create a more diverse and inclusive workforce.

If they don’t follow these new approaches, we know exactly what will happen — as we saw the impact of offshoring and community underinvestment two decades ago. If we choose to learn from that experience and invest in the people and programs in our communities, we can accelerate the growth and diversity of the US tech workforce and avoid repeating this conversation a decade from now.


Julie Elberfeld is Senior Advisor at Opportunity@Work and former SVP of Capital One.

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