“It turns out it doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are at writing code,” President Obama said today at the National League of Cities conference. “If you can do the job, you should get the job.”
That’s the key part of an announcement Obama made for the TechHire Initiative, a $100 million program to help bridge the gap between out-of-work Americans and tech companies with often-ballooning staffing needs. His argument is that with more focused recruiting practices, accelerated training programs, and the standardization of coding camps and online courses, tech companies can more quickly fill jobs with qualified local candidates—and everybody wins.
“When these tech jobs go unfilled, it’s a missed opportunity for low-wage workers who could transform their earnings potential with just a little bit of training. And that costs our whole economy in terms of lost wages and productivity.”
To start, the initiative is working with 300 employers in 21 different cities to help place Americans in 120,000 tech jobs. More traditional training programs at Microsoft, Dev Bootcamp, and Udacity will offer more services for free, while groups like General Assembly and Hackbright Academy will work with community colleges to standardize what they teach. This also includes specific incentives to bring women, minorities, veterans, and people with disabilities into the tech world, which we know has been a problem. Specifically, $10 million from the nonprofit #YesWeCode will fund 2,000 scholarships for minorities.
The tech industry is already well-known for recruiting employees who might not have received the most traditional educations—most of the skills required by tech employees today weren’t even taught in schools. But these are often insider tracks to employment—friends hiring friends who are just like them. By standardizing the way Americans can acquire these skills and encouraging tech companies to offer that training, Obama’s plan is legitimizing these nontraditional paths to sought-after jobs, and making them more accessible to the people who need them most.