Employers, educators team up to bridge critical tech skills gaps

WASHINGTON —  To ease a growing talent crunch, employers are taking a closer look further down the workforce pipeline, starting in schools.

Companies like JPMorgan Chase have partnered with educators in efforts to bridge skills gaps. The banking giant joined forces with the Greater Washington Partnership and the Education Strategy Group to support K-12 technology education in November. JPMorgan Chase committed $5.3 million to the joint TalentReady initiative over the next three years.

The GWP, an alliance of around 35 employers across industries clustered around the Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia, areas, works with regional school districts to provide career pathways and work-based learning. 

TalentReady allows conversations about talent pipelines to exist outside traditional siloes, according to Emily West, VP skills, talent and future of work at the GWP.

“The first iteration of this project created 19 tech career pathways in high schools and served over 25,000 learners,” West said Thursday during the AWS Summit in Washington, D.C.

It’s just one piece of the puzzle for how employers and educators are partnering to break down tech career entry barriers and solve a looming crisis. If left unabated, tech talent shortages will end up costing organizations $5.5 trillion in the next two years, according to IDC market research.

But creating a pipeline isn’t as simple as standing up education programs. 

Employers have to provide internships and apprenticeships, some suggest, giving students the chance to flex and develop their skills on the job. 

Opportunities abound. There is widespread need for skilled tech pros as enterprises prioritize digital transformation. Nearly 4 in 5 CIOs and senior IT leaders plan to increase staff levels this year, according to a Gartner survey. 

A CompTIA review of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data paints a similar picture. Employers across the economy added 27,000 job postings in May, totaling 209,000 active postings — the highest total since last June. Upskilling initiatives are also top of mind with cyber, AI and data dominating bandwidth.

“We think in terms of supply chain, expanding access,” Raj Echambadi, president at Illinois Institute of Technology, said during the summit. “But we never think in terms of building belonging.” 

The Illinois Institute of Technology is working to tackle the issue through mentor support groups made up of peers, alumni and faculty. 

“There are three people like a concierge service for every student, and that is what it takes: a village,” Echambadi said. “Inclusion without belonging is not going to give us the results that we need.”