Diversity & Inclusion
DEI / Federal government / Jobs / Nonprofits / Tech jobs

A nationwide tech apprenticeship program is taking aim at unfilled IT jobs

CompTIA and Maher and Maher are building the program to create more opportunities for diverse talent. It is backed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

You'll get there. (Photo by Flickr user Michael Himbeault, used under a Creative Commons license)

This editorial article is a part of Workforce Development Month of Technical.ly's editorial calendar.

It’s a frequent topic in tech hiring circles that while lots of IT jobs are posted, many go unfilledCompTIA knows this well, as the national IT trade association frequently provides data behind tech workforce trends.

According to some of its most recent numbers, employers in the Baltimore metro area advertised more than 8,400 open IT positions in September and October, with 1,259 postings for software and app developers, 421 openings for systems engineers and architects, 334 advertisements for IT support specialists and 227 listings for and information security analysts.

Now, CompTIA is teaming on an effort to help workers gain the skills to fill those positions.

The D.C.-based nonprofit and talent firm Maher and Maher are working on a program backed by the U.S. Department of Labor to create a nationwide apprenticeship program for tech jobs. The apprenticeship program is specifically focusing on diversity, with an aim to increase career opportunities in IT for women, individuals with disabilities and people of color.

The firms were picked by the U.S. Department of Labor to focus on tech roles as part of a wider effort to create apprenticeship programs. It comes at a time when the unemployment rate is 7.7% in Maryland following the pandemic-caused economic shock, and the summer’s nationwide call for racial justice continues to reverberate.

“Instead of taking the small steps we’ve done in the past, we’re taking a lot bigger step to get more of a national footprint with this initiative,” said Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications at CompTIA.

Individuals interested in the program can expect to have paid work with an employer while they take courses and get certified in the skills necessary to do the job. It’s similar to a model we saw launch locally earlier this month from Howard Community College.

The number of openings in IT are mostly holding steady in the pandemic and are only projected to grow going forward, yet there are a lot of reasons why tech jobs go unfilled. There are misconceptions, as some believe they require genius levels of math to get a foothold, while others may think the job itself requires being stuck in a room coding all day. In reality, the field has entry-level positions that don’t even require college degrees, and there are plenty of examples of career progressions to leadership.

In a field that remains predominantly white and male, creating more inclusive opportunities to gain those initial skills for a foothold in the industry is key.

Another reason for all of the unfilled jobs is that employers are trying the same methods to hire talent and expecting a different result.

“Honestly a lot of companies that say they can’t find technology workers are guilty of doing the same thing, looking in the same places, doing the same kind of job ads and expecting a different result,” said Ostrowski. “We’re hoping to open some eyes on the employer side.”

Given the prospect of trainees eventually getting hired on, the apprenticeship represents a new approach that’s a spin on an old model used in the trades. The national program is being built on the Registered Apprenticeship Program model, which brings validation from the U.S. Department of Labor or a state program, and is designed to allow more employers to participate. Tech hiring isn’t just being done by tech companies these days, as many employers have a need for IT talent.

CompTIA expects the apprenticeship program to be available in the first half of 2021. For those interested in the apprenticeship, whether future apprentice or employer, reach out to Ostrowski via email at SOstrowski@comptia.org

“There’s no prerequisites or requirements to at least start a conversation with us and see if there’s a fit,” said Ostrowski.

Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.
Series: Workforce Development Month 2020

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