It’s no secret that the American economy is changing, and some of the most in-demand skills today barely existed a generation ago. The average worker graduated high school around twenty years ago, when the personal computer was in its infancy, and only the most technical professions demanded a fluency in information technology (IT).
But times have changed, and some of the best ladders to well-paying, middle-class jobs are in IT fields across our economy. That’s because the average salary in a job that requires IT skills -- whether in manufacturing, advertising, hospitality, or banking -- is more than one and a half times higher than the average private-sector American job.
This week, the President and Vice President are announcing important reforms in the way Federal programs train and retrain workers. To meet the demand for IT and cybersecurity skills, we will also be kicking off a significant new effort focused on bridging the gap between workers, technology skills, and employers.
IT and cybersecurity jobs are not just for PhDs. In fact, hundreds of thousands of these jobs require skills that can be learned not only in universities, but also in community colleges, in industry certified training programs, in “coding boot camps” or in high-quality online courses. And they’re not just in Silicon Valley, or in the high tech industry. A recent Corporate Executive Board (CEB) analysis showed that Philadelphia had 31,000 open IT jobs in 2013 -- more than three unfilled jobs for every 10 current IT workers. Some of those in-demand IT jobs were in software companies, but many more were in other industries we don’t think of as part of the technology sector -- in health care, retail, manufacturing, financial services, energy, transportation, or in local government.
Our goal is to create more stories like Daniel DuBravec’s. Daniel is from Virginia, and after being laid off at age 51, he enrolled in a six-month program to build on his skills and get a credential in the in-demand field of healthcare IT. He gained the skills he needed to compete in the new economy and earn a better life -- without going back to a four-year college, or taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars in new debt. As Daniel told the President last month, that program gave him a “fair shake and the ability to show that hard work and determination can still make a difference in this great country of ours."
This is a real opportunity, and to seize it, our mission is clear: Get more Americans like Daniel on the path to fill one of the hundreds of thousands of vacancies companies have right now in IT by providing every possible opportunity for them to gain the skills to be competitive doing so. When companies can’t fill these jobs, it costs them, and it makes it harder to keep jobs on our shores and to encourage businesses to bring new operations to the United States. That’s something we need to change.
There are a number of ways to get there. Some programs have pioneered ways to give learners professional skills, and even certifications, in a fraction of the time. Others, such as the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) led by the federal government, have helped fill critical gaps in our workforce to protect networks and critical infrastructure, in part by providing educational institutions with the tools and recognition to attract and train workers in this vital field. These are the kinds of programs we want to amplify, and strategically scale up to serve the economy more broadly.
Success will require bringing together industry and employers with universities, community colleges, and short-term training providers, professional associations, tech innovators, community-based nonprofits, local workforce and economic development agencies, and more. We’ll be united around a common purpose: to develop innovative partnerships and programs to better train those entering the workforce with the skills employers are saying they need, and provide flexible and affordable options for those already in the workforce looking to move into or up into these in-demand jobs. The White House will work to bring these stakeholders together, and will work with local and state leaders to do the same in their communities.
In the coming months, building upon the opportunities and recommendations identified in the Vice President’s report on Job-Driven Training, we’ll be announcing a number of new steps to expand the opportunities across the country for hard-working Americans who want to train for IT jobs with burgeoning demand like cybersecurity.
Because, in a country that leads the world in technological innovation, training or retraining for an IT job is an opportunity to which every American deserves access. Does your company, academic institution, or non-profit want to get involved? Email us to let us know.
Byron Auguste is Deputy Director of the National Economic Council. R. David Edelman is Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation, and Privacy.