IT worker shortageWe’ve discussed the IT talent shortage before on this site. This week an article on CNET about an innovative idea to address the problem caught my attention. In NYC High School Will Train Badly Needed Software Engineers, columnist Daniel Terdiman reports on plans to open The Academy for Software Engineering in the fall of this year. The Academy’s main focus is going to be training the next generation of software engineers. The expectation is that 400-500 students will attend, drawn from applicants across the city based on their interest in software development not based on academics. This is an important point since the kind of student who can become a talented developer does not necessarily excel in subjects across the board. That said, the school will offer a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. The project is spearheaded by a group of prominent New York technology leaders and has the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. If the Academy is successful it will likely be a blueprint for similar efforts in other cities and schools.

As it should be! I think this is a great idea and the kind of practical solution we need to keep America competitive and boost employment. There are other efforts to boost the ranks of technology employment. Elevate America Veterans is an effort by Microsoft to provide IT training to military veterans and their spouses and is an extension of their Elevate America initiative. Both programs provide training opportunities in a number of ways: by partnering with local community organizations; through the state voucher program; and by providing no and low cost on line training resources. I might add that veterans with existing IT skills learned on the job in the military would be a welcome addition to anyone’s IT department. Hire one if you can!

There is no one solution to IT talent shortages. The industry needs many good ideas to solve the problem. The common denominator here is the recognition that providing training instead of waiting for trained workers to appear is a good idea for both governments and technology companies. The fact that companies are casting a wider net to find trainable talent should spur existing IT workers as well. Are you in a hot area? Do you have the most desired skills? Do you know mobile app development? No? Well that’s ok, can you learn? If high school students can choose a path toward becoming a software developer so can you. There are plenty of opportunities at our nation’s colleges and universities and many are free. For example:

-UC Berkeley has free webcasts of classes from past semesters. Here is a link to some of their Computer Science Classes.

-Google also offers free online courses.

-MIT also offers free online courses. You’ll find Computer Sciences under the Engineering link to the left.

These are just three examples and I encourage you to search for others if these don’t appeal to you or fit your needs. And when you find them, please share them with us.

As the competition for IT workers grows, companies will have to be more innovative in how they ensure they have the trained staff they need. They will also need to be more flexible and open minded in looking at alternative talent pools – good workers who can transition to IT with the right training. Are you one of those?

Jerry Brenholz
President and CEO

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