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White House Invests $150 Million in Tomorrow's Tech Workers

By Anum Yoon

On June 27, the White House announced TechHire grants totaling $150 million. The cash will fund 39 recipient partners across the country as they spearhead skills-training in technology. And the administration hopes these partners can devise new ways to train and place burgeoning talent in the growing global tech sector.

A refresher on the TechHire Initiative

To better understand what the initiative entails, you can visit the White House technology website and read on its history. Here are the important details of TechHire:

  • It was announced in March of 2015 by Vice President Joe Biden and Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

  • It's comprised of three parts: 21 communities with over 300 employer partners for training programs; private-sector companies and national organizations for support; and an original $100 million in federal grant funding.

  • The training will concentrate in sectors like tech, manufacturing and healthcare, which are rapidly growing in the nation.

  • By TechHire’s one-year anniversary, a total of 50 communities had joined the initiative.

What TechHire brings to Americans

TechHire’s new influx of assistance for future workers in computer or information sciences help people and companies interested in the project in multiple ways:

  • It helps boost the local economy directly and indirectly, and it's intrinsically tied to an increase in the local middle class.

  • Companies with difficulty in filling out their employee base with the best, most skilled talent now have assistance in acquiring those workers.

  • Fast-track programs prepare the interested and unemployed with information and skills needed for tech jobs. These programs are designed using novel ideas in hiring and training.

  • TechHire gives millions of Americans technical skills needed for jobs in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields.

Finding the new labor force through innovation

With the job paradigm shifting toward technology, it is apparent that a traditional educational track is not necessary anymore. In the past, many of our best programmers and software engineers did not even finish college.

With data and innovative techniques, companies and organizations have created programs like coding bootcamps and online training programs. These new learning systems help students learn tech skills at a pace faster than traditional programs. These programs are constantly upgrading and expanding for an ever-growing market.

The communities of TechHire

The U.S. tech sector is expanding throughout all regions of the country. Here are two examples:

In the last five years, Seattle added 63,000 new jobs on account of a tech sector growing at a rapid pace. The city is one of the new communities added to TechHire since its inception. Public- and private-sector organizations will work with the city to train people in tech. And the goal is to employ 2,000 people in tech jobs by 2020.

In June of 2016, the Obama administration launched a South Central Appalachia branch of TechHire. Its goal is to prepare over 50 people in tech jobs with the help of the private sector, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the University of Virginia’s College at Wise. This comes from an interesting trend of bringing IT jobs back from offshore companies to rural communities in the heart of the U.S.

Both Seattle and Appalachia join other communities like ones in Hawaii, Texas, Ohio and New York in the push for converting the unemployed into productive members of the new sector.

The nonprofit role in tech job expansion

In the spirit of creating this new crop of American tech workers, nonprofits are helping TechHire by putting strong efforts in advancing the initiative. For example, Washington D.C.-based Oppportunty@Work provides webinars to people who want to learn about best practices, tools and resources. Opportunity@Work also has a website, TechHire.org, which serves communities as a network of employers and Americans with the desired IT skills.

Tech jobs as a way to uplift the at-risk

From the TechHire Initiative grants, $126 million will be allocated for disadvantaged young Americans ages 17 to 29. This includes $50 million in H-1B technical skills training grants, $20 million in grants to expand training for adults returning from correctional facilities and more.

Many organizations are already considering financing options for lower-income Americans who want the training for better jobs but do not have the means. This is similar to how companies assist communities with poverty housing.

The future of TechHire

It is imperative that the U.S. creates a steady tech workforce in such a competitive global economy. There are powerful obstacles – like a skills gap that considerably hurts the economy – that can be solved if this initiative continues, or even expands. With an upcoming change of administration, TechHire should be a program that is preserved for the economic safety of the nation.

Image credit: Flickr/Berkeley Lab

Anum Yoon is a writer who is passionate about personal finance and sustainability. She often looks for ways she can incorporate money management with environmental awareness. You can read her updates on <a href="http://www.currentoncurrency.com>Current on Currency</a>.

Read more stories by Anum Yoon