One year ago, President Obama announced a new initiative aimed at filling America’s 500,000 vacant tech jobs. The TechHire initiative has two goals: make it easier for people to obtain an IT education, and help employers find and hire these people based on their actual skills, rather than requiring a computer science degree. Today, the president announced the program is expanding.
The original initiative launched with 21 communities committed to finding new approaches to recruiting, and making it easier for applicants to get tech training. At the time, Obama urged other communities to follow their lead, and the administration now says it is doubling the number of communities involved.
In addition, the Department of Education is launching a program that challenges American high schools to create makerspaces where students can tinker and build.
Tech-sector jobs are crucial for economic development, and are also well-paying: according to the original announcement, the average salary in a job that requires tech skills is 50% higher than the average private-sector American job. But there’s a talent gap; not everyone can afford a traditional IT education. Already many people have flocked to alternative programs like General Assembly and Codeacademy, and with this initiative, Obama acknowledged the presence and value of these training programs.
“It turns out it doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are at writing code,” Obama said last year. “If you can do the job, you should get the job.” With his TechHire initiative, the president essentially put his stamp of approval on nontraditional forms of education and encouraged companies to look beyond the four-year college degree as a necessary credential.
The expansion is hot on the heels of Obama’s call in January to bring computer science into all classrooms.