New Initiatives in High-Tech Education
Rumor has it that the state of the U.S. economy is getting better, with close to 5% unemployment, 2% inflation, and high-tech jobs growing at an unprecedented rate.
Nowadays whether at work or at home, we are all spending more and more time on our smart phone, tablet, or laptop, or some combination of the three. So it makes sense that there are an increasing number of software development and design jobs available in areas such as social media, mobile apps, e-commerce, cyber security, and cloud software.
All of this sounds like good news. Yet despite this rosy picture, not everyone has been benefiting equally from the emerging digital economy. The great digital divide between the college educated computer science / design students who find dream jobs at high-tech startups and the lower income millennials who do not complete college or who are unable to attend college at all has left vast swaths of the U.S. population without work. Not to mention the college graduates who find themselves with degree in hand and a lovely liberal arts education, yet strangely lacking the practical technical skills that employers seem to be looking for.
Over the past decade there has been a marked increase in awareness of the significant economic and social challenges that we face because of the digital divide. This has led to a variety of innovative private and public initiatives that have proven to be surprisingly effective at paving the path towards a well paying job. Through low-cost and in some case free short-term high-tech education, a significant number of people have been getting the education they need to get their foot in the door at a technology company with their first job as a web/mobile app developer.
Short-Term High-Tech Training Companies
One viable option for someone hoping to break into the high-tech field is to attend a privately run “coding boot-camp.” These companies provide short-term, typically 3-6 month software development training at a relatively low cost.
The coding boot camp model takes intensive language learning and pushes it into a new take on computer programming education. This model has become increasingly popular in recent years and has given rise to at least 100 privately run boot-camp schools throughout the U.S. Some of the most popular include Dev Bootcamp, Coder Camps, Hack Reactor, Flatiron, Startup Institute, and General Assembly. Many of these educational companies offer courses in multiple cities in the U.S. and feature a hybrid of online and on-site courses, in some cases with evening and weekend courses available. In addition, many provide career counseling and assistance developing a project portfolio.
TechHire: Federal Multi-Sector Training
In March, 2015, the White House announced the new federal TechHire program. This program allocates $100 million in federal grants for innovative multi-sector high-tech educational and job placement initiatives that are targeted to low-income and under-served populations in the U.S. This includes unemployed youth in low-income areas, veterans, and Americans with disabilities, among others. An impressive $50 million of that funding is geared specifically to 19-29 year olds who are out of work and not in school.
This grant money is awarded to cities, states, and rural areas that have developed innovative programs for combining federal, state, and local initiatives, together with private contributions and corporate partnerships. In each program, the first phase includes high-tech education through traditional means such as online or on-site courses at universities and community colleges and/or intensive training at coding boot camps. In the second phase students are placed in paid internships and jobs at partnering tech start-ups and other local companies.
New York City TechHire Initiative: City University of New York and Flatiron School
In New York City, the TechHire initiative provides talented computer science students at the City University of New York with paid high-tech internships at companies such as Microsoft, Etsy, Foursquare, MongoDB, and Trello. The New York City initiative also provides opportunities for unemployed 18-26 year olds with some or no college education: each year a group of students are selected for a tuition-free, 22-week NYC Web Development program at the Flatiron School.
Oregon TechHire Initiative: Code Oregon
The TechHire initiative area in Oregon provides free high-tech training through Code Oregon, a Treehouse online training program that is available to Oregon residents. After completing a six-month training program, students work with a career placement program to find jobs and paid internships. This training has successfully led a large number of students to jobs in web and mobile app development. Last year this program placed over 35,000 Portland residents in high-tech jobs.
TechHire in 35 Areas
At the beginning of the TechHire program in March, 2015, 21 regions and 300 private companies had announced partnerships and plans to create fast-track TechHire opportunities. Today multi-sector programs that are similar to the New York City and Oregon programs are currently underway in at least 35 cities, states, and rural areas in the U.S. There are also 500+ employers that are partners in these programs.