August 16, 2022

To build a better tech workforce, we can’t address today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions

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With the economy potentially on the brink of recession and job openings in the tech industry still at record highs, many technology executives across the country are flashing back to a similar set of economic dynamics two decades ago.
With the economy potentially on the brink of recession and job openings in the tech industry still at record highs, many technology executives across the country are flashing back to a similar set of economic dynamics two decades ago.
Facing a rapidly increasing need for technology skills, we were looking everywhere for talent, and looking overseas developed as the best way to grow as cost-effectively as possible. Companies then weren’t laying off local workers or outsourcing every single job. But like many of our peers, we certainly paused our U.S. growth in order to focus on other markets.
That level of offshoring made a significant impact abroad, contributing to substantial economic growth in other countries. But it also made an impact at home.
In the mid-2000s, the number of computer science graduates in the U.S. declined sharply, due in no small part to a perception among students and families that those desirable tech jobs were being filled by workers from other countries. Even though only a small percentage of jobs were actually offshored in the early days, the narrative was powerful enough to keep people from pursuing those jobs—or the education pathways to access them.
It was so powerful, in fact, that a group of business leaders and education organizations in my hometown of Cincinnati responded by forming a local coalition, the INTERalliance, designed specifically to rebuild tech talent in the region.
To put it another way, within just a few years, we were investing to combat a narrative that we ourselves had helped to perpetuate.
Today, we know more about the long-term impacts of underinvesting in the growth of the U.S. tech workforce. And now we have solutions already developed across the country that promise immediate and long-term benefits for companies and workers here at home, while eliminating a repeat of the blowback of the offshoring practices employed decades ago.
Yet many employers still have not changed their hiring practices to recognize the potential of these other pathways, or to explicitly screen in workers known as STARs (Skilled Through Alternative Routes). Too many businesses are choosing the strategies they know—looking overseas or poaching talent from their competitors—rather than investing the time and energy necessary to build a strong and sustainable tech workforce within the U.S. economy.
Again, those strategies aren’t bad in a vacuum. But if we act like they’re the only answer to this supply-demand challenge, we close the door to opportunity for millions of Americans who could access some of our economy’s highest-paying and most future-proof jobs.
The good news is that some forward-thinking organizations have decided to pursue new solutions to solve the tech-talent shortage.
It’s time for more companies to do the same.

The original content of the note was published on Fastcompany.com. To read the full note visit here

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