How companies can get involved in the TechHire initiative

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Members of the Obama administration have some simple advice for companies that want to pounce on the opportunities presented by the new TechHire initiative: Ditch your old-fashioned hiring practices and get involved in your local tech community.

That was the message Tuesday during a conference call hosted by lobbying group Business Forward, during which U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith and National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients gave more details on how private business can benefit from TechHire.

Announced Monday, TechHire aims to get qualified applicants into the more than 500,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S., partnering with 20 communities across the country to find new ways to train, place and expand tech talent.

“There are IT jobs in every corner of America from big cities to small towns, from big businesses to small businesses, in every sector of the economy,” Zients said during the call. “Getting Americans trained to fill these well-paying jobs is not only the right thing to do, it’s also an economic imperative for the U.S.”

As part of the initiative, the federal government will be issuing a $100 million grant challenge to support approaches for training underrepresented individuals, including the disabled, those with low-English proficiency and those who the administration calls “disconnected youth.” The private sector has also pledged to help build and expand “coding bootcamps” for low-income and underserved Americans, such as women, minorities and veterans.

“Not only are we helping employers fill positions; we’re also able to reach into a city and find more people that are underrepresented, which also helps our employers,” Smith said.

But beyond what the administration has laid out, Smith told people on the call if they want to tap into their underserved pools, their companies need to move past solely examining resumes, instead getting people to show what they’re capable of building.

“You have to get your HR department to be open to doing resume review that doesn’t require that classic four-year degree or two-year degree,” Smith said.

Smith highlighted examples of companies creating local coding camps, including a program in San Antonio, Texas, where cloud-computing company Rackspace US Inc. introduced an “open cloud academy” that served as a pipeline for new hires. The academy allowed Rackspace to save the $15,000 to $20,000 per employee it spent relocating engineers from different parts of the country.

“The key is to get your local ecosystem moving,” Smith said.

Whether it’s through new training practices or a refinement of a company’s internal hiring process, the administration wants the private sector to understand that finding the right model, however unconventional, will help locate the top talent it’s looking to recruit.

“You want to make sure you are getting really high quality people,” said Ryan Burke, policy adviser with the National Economic Council. “The only way to do that is to be really clear with yourself, training providers and individuals about the skills you are looking for and the ways [applicants] can prove to [businesses] they can do the job even if they don’t have that degree.”

For more information on TechHire, visit the White House’s website.

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Government IT News, Jeffrey Zients, Megan Smith, White House, workforce, Workforce & Leadership
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