The technology industry is a driving force for creating jobs and expanding economic growth. In 2016 alone, the technology sector contributed more than $1 trillion to the U.S. economy, employed more than 7 million workers and added more than 100,000 new jobs.
Despite these impressive numbers, tech employers often say they can’t find candidates with the right skills to grow their businesses. That’s why both of us have teamed up to introduce the bipartisan Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act to encourage educators and businesses to start apprenticeship programs for the tech sector.
Not every high-tech career requires a four-year college degree, and apprenticeships are a proven method to develop workers. Unfortunately, the United States lags behind our peer countries implementing them. For many career paths, complementing the classroom with practical on-the-job experiences is the most effective and efficient way for workers to develop the skills necessary to thrive.
The CHANCE in Tech Act was inspired by innovative apprenticeship initiatives underway in both of our states.
The New Mexico Information Technology Apprenticeship Program (NMITAP) at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque is using federal funding and partnerships between the college and local technology businesses to create apprenticeships and build a technology workforce pipeline. Graduates of NMITAP learn new computer coding skills, earn industry-recognized credentials, and put their new skills to use at local technology companies.
In Colorado, companies like Galvanize are already creating a space for educators and industry to join together and ensure the next generation of talent is getting access to the right training — and those companies are working to expand technology-related opportunities to traditionally underrepresented individuals in industry. Given Colorado’s booming technology corridor, these kinds of arrangements are becoming more important and help ensure our tech community has a steady pipeline of well-trained employees.
Under the CHANCE in Tech Act, we can scale up these successful models in communities across the nation to train students and workers for long-term careers. Public-private partnerships will help employers participating in apprenticeship programs train new workers through collaboration with industry partners and public entities like community colleges and state workforce agencies.
We have enormous potential to create jobs and major new industries if we can prepare our students and retrain our labor force for a lucrative high-tech job market. This is America’s future, and one where our communities can prosper — but only if we make the right choices today.