Workforce Development

Using Partnerships to Tackle the IT Skills Gap

April 27, 2012  • Todd Thibodeaux and Karen Elzey

Skills for America's FutureA recent report from CompTIA, a leading trade association of the information technology (IT) industry, underscores the glaring problem of the “skills gap.” A staggering 80 percent of IT employers report that current business operations are being adversely impacted by the skills gap. The dynamic, fast-changing nature of technology and a lack of training resources are the biggest factors contributing to the skills gap in IT. Moreover, with workers in key industries like energy and advanced manufacturing approaching retirement age, the issue is starting to reach critical mass.

The Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future (SAF) national initiative is working to address the skills gap by fostering partnerships between community colleges and businesses, bringing together leaders from the business, community college, and workforce development worlds.

SAF helps align industry needs with credentials training offered by community colleges. Perhaps more than any other, the IT industry, if it is to remain viable, must match skills with rapidly developing innovations. For employees, this means learning the latest skills. For employers, this means hiring the people who have learned these competencies.

Companies are well aware of this fact. According to the CompTIA study, 57 percent reported that they intend to improve their IT staffs’ skills through training.

Through partnerships with CompTIA and other industry groups, SAF identifies successful training models, and connects with companies to develop partnerships that can help train community college students with the skills they need to succeed.

One such example is CompTIA member company and SAF partner Atrion Networking Corp., located in Rhode Island. Eager to develop and hire technology services talent, Atrion is recruiting at the Community College of Rhode Island and other post-secondary institutions, connecting with students and helping them find a career match with its industry-leading Apprentice Program and internship opportunities.

Organizations that understand the value of workforce training are also stepping to the plate. For instance, Year Up Bay Area is working with City College of San Francisco and leading businesses like Wells Fargo, Kaiser Permanente and others to provide students with IT education, credentialing, and internship placement leading to IT careers in the Bay Area.

The training initiatives by companies like Atrion and organizations like Year Up demonstrate the opportunities for innovative partnerships with local community colleges that integrate classroom and on-the-job training in the IT sector. These creative partnerships can help form a pipeline of new IT talent for businesses and ultimately create models of success for IT workforce development.

As in many other groundbreaking ventures, the hardest step to take is the first. The partnerships CompTIA is developing with SAF will create the needed momentum for that step. In doing so, CompTIA, along with SAF, are helping the nation address the IT skills gap.

Todd Thibodeaux is the president and chief executive officer of the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), the leading trade association representing the business interests of the global information technology (IT) industry.

Karen Elzey is the Director of Skills for America’s Future (SAF), a national, independent initiative of the Aspen Institute working to foster partnerships between community colleges and employers.