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Tech Jobs for All?

Exploring the Promise and Pitfalls of Technology Training in the United States

Tech Jobs For All - Report Cover

In the past few years, training programs promising on-ramps to high-paying tech jobs have sprung up across the country, drawing attention from the media, government leaders, and the general public. The rapid growth of these new models for tech training - often designed to fill the projected growth in information and communication technology (ICT) jobs - raises questions about how best to classify and understand these programs and their role and value in workforce development more generally.

This report examines the reasons for the tech training hype and proposes a taxonomy of training programs, cataloging best practices from each program type. The report also identifies challenges that organizations, employers, and the government will need to address to ensure these expanding programs accurately meet market demand and look to the future of tech training more generally.

Interest in new tech training is often driven by government estimates of as many as 500,000 currently open ICT jobs and more than a million similar new jobs being created in the next decade. While these are only estimates, technology jobs are often touted as being plentiful, high-paying, and available to anyone with the skills to do them, regardless of a formal degree. Spurred on by the promise of these new career pathways, organizations have created training programs that offer to teach anyone the ICT skills they need to get a job in only a few months.



Workers and a workplace.

Challenges

Tech training programs face many of the same challenges as traditional workforce development programs, as well as some additional unique or exacerbated obstacles. Generally, these challenges involve ensuring trainees have the skills required to succeed, broadening programs to reach diverse populations, connecting with employers and keeping up with changes in the market, and creating a system for evaluating success.

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Workers and a workplace.

Classifying Tech Training

Organizations have developed a number of training models to help different populations learn the skills they need for ICT jobs. These training programs are categorized into five different types in the report, with more information given about their advantages and obstacles:

Traditional Education

Desk

Programs that are connected to traditional education that go beyond or are otherwise complementary to K-12, often through classroom instruction.

Example Programs

  • Lake Area Technical Institute — Computer Information Programs
  • Pathways in Technology Early College High School

Bootcamps

Clock

Intensive programs that are usually less than one year in length and aim to teach a discrete skill or skillset. These programs may result in a certificate or nanodegree, but often not a postsecondary degree.

Example Programs

  • Detroit Grand Circus — Java Bootcamp and Front-End Bootcamp
  • Flatiron School — Web Development Immersive

MOOCs

Computer Monitor

Massive open online courses are often free or low-cost and may or may not have an instructor at the helm of the training.

Example Programs

  • edX
  • Udacity
  • Code Louisville

Internships and Apprenticeships

Suitcase

Programs that connect participants directly to a career pathway by enabling them to work with potential employers.

Example Programs

  • Code to Work
  • CODE2040 Fellowship
  • Launch–Code

Integrated Technical and Experiential Programs

Graphic showing all aspects of tech training together

Programs that aim to provide multiple methods of training, often through a combination of accelerated learning, an internship or apprenticeship, and mentorship.

Example Programs

  • NPower — Technology Service Corps
  • Per Scholars
  • Year Up
  • Vermont HITEC
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In addition to these training programs, employers and intermediary organizations play an important role in the tech training landscape. Both help to signal demand for skills, building connections with training programs and offering continued training opportunities for employed workers.

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Making Tech Training Work

Although many parts of tech training are new and evolving, this report examines a number of best practices that can be used to improve the field more generally:


System of New Credentials

Creating a way for programs and participants to clearly signal to employers that they have desired skills, either through certifications, portfolios, or standardized curricula.

Intentional Efforts to Support Diversity

Making an effort to create or support programs with the goal of including students from disadvantaged or underrepresented communities.

Institutionalized Data Collection

Ensuring that programs collect similar data to better evaluate the success of individual programs as well as the field as a whole.

Creating a Hub

Forming a system for effective communication toward collaboration, ensuring that programs meet actual need, and expand, replicate, and share best practices.

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The explosion of new tech training models is an exciting moment for the tech world and workforce development, but the tech training buzz that "anyone can have a tech job" also deserves a healthy bit of caution. This field is still relatively new, and it remains to be seen what the future of these programs is and whether the growth of tech jobs will continue as promised. As new models mature, however, their success will ultimately depend on their ability to ground claims of success in data, to adjust to changes in the marketplace, and to meet employer demand.

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