Obama’s middle class economics means more IT training in cities

     Observers check out the waterjet cutting machine demonstration at NextFab Studio in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    Observers check out the waterjet cutting machine demonstration at NextFab Studio in Philadelphia. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

    TechHire will train workers for the IT sector through universities, community colleges and programs like coding boot camps.

    President Barack Obama addressed the 50th annual National League of Cities Congressional City Conference – something a President hasn’t done since 1995 – on March 9. The President used his time to tout a new initiative called TechHire. The idea is to train workers for the Information Technology sector through universities, community colleges and non-degree programs, like coding boot camps, to open up the well-paying sector to more people, especially those currently underrepresented in IT.

    According to the White House factsheet, IT makes up the largest category of open jobs right now: “IT jobs in fields like cybersecurity, network administration, coding, project management, [user interface] design and data analytics offer pathways to middle-class careers with average salaries more than one and a half times higher than the average private-sector American job.”

    Philadelphia is one of 20 early joiners of TechHire. According to Esri and Burning Glass, data cited by the White House, there were more than 16,000 IT job openings in 2011 in the Philadelphia metro area, which was 16 percent of all job openings in the area. And Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. predicts the region will see a 10 percent increase in IT jobs in the coming decade. Employers – including Comcast, Accenture, Alteva, Aramark, Exelon/PECO, Independence Blue Cross, and EY (Ernst & Young, LLP) – are working with the city, educational institutions, non-profits and private companies to train workers for tech jobs through a program called PhIT for the Future. The companies have promised on-the-job training and paid internships to people who complete the program. According to the White House, Philadelphia will also partner with Per Scholas and Creating IT Futures, two nonprofits that provide training and job placement assistance for tech jobs to people historically underrepresented in the sector, with the first cohort to start in May 2015. 

    Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto is attending the conference, so don’t be surprised if Pittsburgh joins the other TechHire cities. See? 

    Peduto tweet

    Already, the Pittsburgh metro area is developing similar programs.  

    The Commonwealth’s largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are working to become recognized tech hubs. And smaller cities, like Johnstown, are working to diversify their post-industrial economies to include more tech jobs. All that will be in large part contingent on the availability of a qualified workforce.

    One hundred million dollars in federal grants will be available for training programs for “low-skill individuals with barriers to training and employment including those with child care responsibilities, people with disabilities, disconnected youth, and limited English proficient workers, among others,” according to the White House. That will be paid for with fees for the H-1B visa program that brings foreign workers into the U.S. An additional $100 million in grants is available for training programs for high-growth fields, including IT.   



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