Four Reasons the President’s TechHire Initiative Will Lead to a More Diverse Tech Sector

Yesterday the President launched TechHire, a timely initiative linking 20 communities and 300 employers to fill 120,000 tech jobs through accelerated training programs, such as coding bootcamps. TechHire was the last initiative I worked on before leaving the White House, so I wanted to share my thoughts on why I think it will improve the skills gap and develop a more diverse tech sector by addressing four critical areas:

· Increasing access to $100 Million in educational grants
· Standardizing the way top coding bootcamps are evaluated
· Modernizing hiring practices for 300 employers
· Expanding the reach of tech meetups and coding bootcamps in 20 communities

1. $100 million in grants for people who are underrepresented in the tech sector

The average cost to attend a coding bootcamp is almost $10,000 for three months of training. While expensive and out of reach for many without the assistance of loans or grants, the return on investment is high.

According to the most recent survey of bootcamps from Course Report, graduating students immediately increased their annual income by 44% to $77,000. Yet, because most coding bootcamps are unaccredited, it’s hard to access student loans and grants to attend them. The President’s announcement of the $100 million H-1B grant competition by the Department of Labor, then, will significantly help reduce the financial barrier to attend coding bootcamps for people who are underrepresented in tech.

2. Ensuring a quality education, from California to New York

When people invest three months of time and $10,000, they want to compare their options, apples to apples, to make the right investment. Previously, it was hard to compare the employment and graduation outcomes between coding bootcamps. Yesterday that changed.

Ten of the top coding bootcamps in the country formed the New Economy Skills Training Association and wrote a letter to the President. In it, they committed to publishing standardized outcomes, verified by 3rd-party auditors, on an annual basis. This is an important step. It’s a step that means this nascent industry can build a trusted reputation and deliver quality, high-impact education for ALL Americans.

3. Adapting employer hiring practices for the latest tech training methods

Yesterday the President said, “If you can do the job, you should get the job.” It’s easy to see why he said this. If you look at most job postings for entry-level tech positions from top companies, they often require a bachelor’s degree — unintentionally discouraging qualified candidates from applying. While a bachelor’s degree is important and something I encourage everyone to get, oftentimes there are life situations that prevent good people with incredible talent from getting those degrees.

However, 300 employers, including Capital One and other big companies, committed to updating their hiring practices, which will allow them to tap into a larger, more diverse pool of talent. As the President said, “It doesn’t matter where you learned code, it just matters how good you are in writing code.” Following that same idea, Unitive, Gild and similar startups are already helping companies write job postings that encourage a more diverse application pool and evaluate people by their code, respectively. The President’s comments and the TechHire initiative will help drive that further into practice.

4. Expanding the reach of tech meetups and coding bootcamps across the country

Today, over half a million job openings are in tech. They aren’t limited to just San Francisco, New York or Austin, either. They’re all over the country in various industries — for example, in health, finance and manufacturing, among others.

With yesterday’s announcement, mayors and governors from 20 communities, including Louisville, St. Louis, and the state of Delaware are bringing together employers and forming local organizations to standardize employer skills requirements, recruit coding bootcamps and proactively recruit more women and underrepresented minorities to training and tech talent pipeline programs. There was a lot excitement from the nearly 2,000 city officials at the annual National League of Cities conference, where the speech took place. I wouldn’t be surprised if the amount of communities joining this effort doubled by the end of the year.

Achieving diversity that reflects America’s demographics

In a keynote address at Bryn Mawr, former President of the National Academy of Engineering Bill Wulf once said, “Every time we approach a design problem with a pale male team we run the risk of not finding the elegant solution.” He further explained, “If we don’t have a diverse workforce, we limit the set of life experiences that an engineering team will have and, consequently, we limit the creativity that could be brought to bear.”

As creative problem-solvers, we’re trying to find the simplest, most elegant solution. When faced with the daunting statistic that China is graduating 600,000 engineers annually to our 60,000, our leadership in tech and innovation will be seriously challenged. But it’s a challenge I think we can meet.

Diversity is America’s greatest asset. It’s our strategic advantage to power the most creative and impactful tech companies of the future. Yesterday’s commitments from mayors, coding bootcamps and employers is another step to enable our tech community to tap into a greater pool of talent that better represents the diversity of this country and reach our full potential.

If you, your community or organization is interested in joining the TechHire Initiative, click here to sign up!


Brian Forde served as Senior Advisor for Mobile and Data Innovation at The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he cofounded both the White House Tech Inclusion and TechHire Initiatives to support the training and hiring of more women and minorities in tech.