Creating tech jobs is important not just for building companies today, but a local economy that’s looking to become more inclusive in the future.
It’s something we hear often in economic development circles, and now there’s data behind it: Information technology is one of four industry sectors where a cluster of occupations are forecast to produce the most family-supporting jobs that don’t require a college degree, according to a workforce development-focused report issued Monday by the Greater Baltimore Committee.
There are specific computer-based technology roles expected to grow, as well. Alongside a list of 20 that includes electricians, nurses, plumbers and carpenters, the report identifies a trio of occupations that are forecast to produce the most family-supporting jobs, which are defined as occupations that “pay an hourly wage that allows working adults with less than a bachelor’s degree.” They include:
- Web developers
- Computer user support specialists
- Computer network support specialists
In healthcare, the report also identifies technician roles in health information, clinical laboratory and radiology.
It points to areas where tech skills can lead to more jobs. Getting to that point will require a focus on workforce development and education by the business community, the report states. It also means a focus on education and training that is inclusive, and barriers.
Preparing for the Future — GBC's Regional Workforce Development Initiative Report is out now!
GBC is excited to unveil this assessment of the jobs and industries that are forecast to grow in our region over the next decade.
View the report here: https://t.co/7BiforMW71
— GBC (@GBCorg) October 19, 2020
“A key goal will be to address structural racism and how it inhibits access to upwardly mobile jobs, employment preparation, employment and upward mobility for Black and Brown workers. Addressing this issue can create a ‘win-win’ for our economy and all employers in our region,” said Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities and a member of the steering committee for the report.
The report comes as the Greater Baltimore Committee, the prominent business advocacy organization, is voicing a new push to improve inclusion. Last week, it appointed Exelon Utilities CEO Calvin G. Butler Jr. as chair. The former BGE CEO guided the report’s development over the last 18 months.
“We at the GBC have to ask ourselves critically, are we engaging all segments of our city and region to really drive an agenda of equity, inclusion and opportunity,” Butler told the Sun.
Within tech, this issue isn’t new, nor is it unaddressed. Over the last five years, we’ve seen companies and programs make a base in Baltimore to train city residents who face the effects of generational racist policies in IT careers. NPower made Southwest Baltimore its Maryland base. Catalyte is growing its program to hire and train software engineers based on aptitude rather than resume in Baltimore and beyond. YearUp is training youth, then lining graduates up with internships. Byte Back expanded to Baltimore last year to teach computer and IT skills.
But it’s clear that more can be done. When it comes to improving workforce development, the report states:
- There is growth in career and technical education participation, and the IT workforce is getting younger, but many internships are still only for students enrolled in four-year degree programs.
- There is a lack of info about pathways to IT jobs beyond entry level.
- Many IT and cyber occupations in the public sector have a degree requirement, so were not included in the analysis.
So how to address these issues? For one, the report recommends that IT companies “more clearly define occupational skills profiles and develop clearly defined pathways to employment and career progression, outlining the skills necessary to enter and advance in high growth IT occupations,” notes GBC CEO Don Fry.
We asked Fry a couple steps that companies could take right away to play a role in workforce development and address systemic racism. Here are his thoughts:
Take a look at the minimum requirements for positions within your company. Is a bachelor’s degree necessary for all of the jobs that require them? Would a certificate or associate’s degree be sufficient for some of the positions? Do you have restrictions on individuals who have had prior involvement with the justice system? More flexibility in minimum requirements will go a long way.
Also, create more work-based learning experiences for youth and adults through internships and registered apprenticeships. Don’t only hire interns who are enrolled in four-year institutions. Work-based learning is an incredible way to increase exposure to different career opportunities, particularly for underserved populations.