It’s going to get easier to get those coveted top-paying tech jobs.
Certain tech companies like IBM are starting “new-collar job” initiatives to break away from the homogenized company cultures where employees all come from the same schools and demographics. Instead of focusing on what’s on paper, companies like IBM are more concerned with what applicants can do. Sam Ladah, IBM’s head of talent organization, told Fast Company that “currently about 10% to 15%” of IBM’s workers are being hired from these non-traditional backgrounds.
IBM starts young too—the company funds high school computer science initiatives in Oakland and Arizona aimed at underrepresented demographics in tech.
The public sector is getting more involved too. In 2015, the White House started the TechHire Initiative in 20 U.S. cities to get more Americans rapidly trained into these high-paying tech jobs.
Apprenticeship programs like LaunchCode were highlighted as part of this. Former President Obama made the stakes to increasing job pipelines very clear: “When these tech jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for the workers, but it’s also a missed opportunity for your city, your community, your county, your state, and our nation.”
These pipelines become especially important as other ones dry up. For instance, the tech industry has relied on immigrant workers to fill many coding jobs, which is going to be harder according to new changes in immigration rules under President Donald Trump.
In new guidelines released over the weekend, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that computer programmers would no longer automatically qualify for H-1B visas. The USCIS would no longer “generally consider the position of programmer to qualify as a specialty occupation.”
Economic argument for technology jobs as vocational training
The numbers are on the wall. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million new computer science jobs, but only 400,000 computer science students. There’s not just a cultural imperative to diversifying tech companies, there’s an economic imperative for businesses to start finding new pipelines, or else they risk getting left behind.
For workers choosing careers, the tech industry is where the money’s at. In 2013, the Obama administration said that information technology workers earned about 74% more than the average worker.
The rise of skills-based hiring initiatives is showing us that it’s never too late to change careers, and that you don’t need fancy paper to do it. In fact, tech companies, coding boot camps and high school initiatives are saying that this is not a unique skill; it can be taught to anyone with a ready mind to learn.