There are ways for corporations, universities, students, government, and nonprofits to chip away at this issue. Getting kids coding earlier and establishing bootcamps are good ideas suggested by CareerFoundry. Florida is allowing students to replace their foreign language requirements with coding skills, a move that I would label a compromise as I'd prefer seeing students learn both foreign language and coding. The Forbes Technology Council published a number of important suggestions including getting more woman and girls to code and reviewing incentives, training, and mentoring programs. There are also many that believe the gap could be solved by offering apprenticeships.
The Tech Skill Gap is Everyone's Issue
You can't solve the skill gap by putting the burden only on employers, employers, or students and it will take a coordinated effort over a period of time to reduce this gap. Here are some of my suggestions
- Employers can hire citizen developers and data scientists with technology backgrounds. Businesses need STEM graduates in many areas outside of traditional IT especially if they want to mature citizen development or citizen data science programs. This will require convincing business managers that hiring technical candidates is a smart strategy and also require developing different career paths for candidates that sign on.
- Partner with the freelance community to give experience to entry level engineers. Candidates can build up their experience and technical skills by winning and completing projects while employers can experiment with new talent without committing to employment.
- Engage multiple universities on corporate sponsored hackathons is another way corporations and universities can partner to mutual benefits. By working with multiple universities, corporations can increase the likelihood of getting real business value from these contests while also evaluating the work from multiple potential hires.
- Corporations have to renew their responsibilities to provide ongoing training and a reasonable work/life balance to the engineers that they hire. Too many organizations expect short term ROI from training programs and make it difficult for technologists to break from their business deliverables so that they can learn or practice new skills. Even worse is when organizations overwork their top engineers making it difficult for new hires or mid-level talent to contribute. I would love to see large organizations accept a manifesto that requires ongoing training and balancing the workload of their engineering talent.
- Universities should partnerships with MOOCs to provide students specialized technology training that may fall outside of the curriculum required for a degree. It's unlikely the average university will prioritize extensive course and lab work in technologies such as Hadoop, Apache Spark, data preparation, CRM, mobile development and other commercial or open source technologies where the skill gap is most significant.
- Reach out to non-profits, veterans and other alternatives to fill skill gaps. LinkedIn, Microsoft, Amazon, and Uber are all investing in military veterans, many who have technology skills and can fill technical roles across the organization. More than 300 companies are participating in TechHire, a campaign sponsored by President Obama to expand local tech sectors by building tech talent pipelines in communities across the country. NPower is an organization that provides individuals, nonprofits and schools opportunities to build tech skills and and is also an opportunity for corporations to support.
These ideas only work if corporations and universities make changes that go beyond filling roles on today's projects and addressing the needs of today's graduates.