IT Expert Addresses Workforce Issues at Forum
At the Workforce Innovations Conference last month in San Antonio, Texas, IT authority and Certification Magazine columnist Martin Bean offered his thoughts on critical cross-industry issues in the job market and made recommendations for how to address them. The conference was the culmination of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Business Relations Group’s efforts to work with companies in different industries to gather information on the workforce issues affecting the nation, part of the White House’s High Growth Job Training Initiative. Bean, CompTIA chair and chief operating officer of New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, and other corporate executives shared their views with a multi-industry panel plenary at the forum.
Although Bean acknowledged there is a job shortage in IT at present, he added that many positions are not taken because there frequently is a communication disconnect between employers and IT professionals, and the gap was not being dealt with sufficiently by those in the industry. “What we’re not doing a good job of is playing the role of matchmaker,” he told CertMag’s EXTRA. “We have to direct people toward those jobs that aren’t being filled.” Bean added that many job seekers simply are not qualified in terms of knowledge or experience. “Many jobs go unfilled because there aren’t enough qualified people to fill them,” he said.
Bean cited the National IT Apprenticeship System (NITAS), established by CompTIA, as a way of addressing both of these problems. A source of experience and learning, NITAS provides IT workers and students with a customized lifelong learning path and uses training and coaching records, hours of experience and certifications achieved as credentialing criteria for each person. Large organizations like McDonald’s and IBM already are on board, which demonstrates that this involved approach is catching on.
However, the lack of trained professionals is hardly limited to the IT field. “Technology underpins everything,” Bean said. “These clear lines of demarcation between industries are going away.” Because of the rise of technology and its role in integrating sundry business organizations, more people in more industries than ever need to familiarize themselves with skills and knowledge that relate to new tools and systems.
Bean mentioned two recent steps the government has taken to get professionals the training they need. The first is the bipartisan Technology Retraining and Investment Now (TRAIN) Act of 2004, which offers tax credits to individuals and organizations that invest in skills training. The other example is the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, which provides approximately $10 billion in grants for unemployed and incumbent workers wanting to get additional training. Bean approved of the government’s actions, but added that the U.S. workforce needs more of these measures.
“America’s real advantage is innovation,” he said. “America has to continue to invest in education and training if it is to maintain its lead in innovation.”