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Behind the Scenes of the White House's TechHire Initiative

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By Hallie Golden March 11, 2015

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With more than 500,000 IT jobs across the country waiting to be filled, the White House is leading a new effort to expand the pool of qualified applicants.

Announced Monday, the "TechHire" initiative is aimed at expanding the tech workforce namely by employing short, innovative training techniques to prepare more people for the field, according to the White House. The effort, which is spearheaded by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council, already brought together 21 community leaders, representing a combined 120,000 unfilled tech jobs. Many large private sector companies are also working toward the initiative’s goal.

Their work will be aimed primarily at expanding access to tech employment for unemployed low-skilled and other underrepresented segments of the population.

The TechHire initiative team identified two effective techniques to achieve such a result: dynamic and quick, job-driven training and job placement. The initiative includes a $100 million federal grant competition. The money will be awarded to those teams that design groundbreaking methods for job training and placement.

“Getting Americans trained to fill these well-paying jobs is not only the right thing to do, but it's also an economic imperative,” Jeff Zients, director of the National Economic Council, said during a conference call Monday.

The initiative may also help the federal government’s own tech-recruiting efforts, as it’s attempting to bolster its digital workforce. After creating U.S. Digital Service in August, it plans to outfit each of its agencies with their own digital service team, which involves hiring a multitude of tech-savvy workers.

The motivating factor behind the TechHire initiative came from the realization that employers across the career spectrum and throughout the country are struggling to fill their IT positions.

OSTP and NEC began to take a closer look at how U.S. cities use innovative strategies to fill their tech jobs. Last fall, they connected leaders from these cities with chief information officers and human resource representatives from areas still struggling. The two groups were then able to share best-practice techniques.

The takeaway was twofold: Short tech courses, such as coding boot camps and online courses, are extremely beneficial in introducing more qualified candidates to the tech workforce, and sharing information between communities is a valuable tool.

“We found that if we were able to bring the communities together, they were starting to learn from each other,” federal Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith said Monday. In December, Smith's office brought together leaders from a variety of communities to a workshop at the White House.

The workshop has since blossomed into a larger network of communities all working together to fill the plethora of vacant tech jobs as members of the TechHire initiative, she added. 

(Image via Orhan Cam/ Shutterstock.com)

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