Is there a tech worker shortage? We’ve seen this sort of thing reported in the media a lot, but not as much about solutions or approaches to filling these jobs.
When I spoke with former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith for last month’s Leadership in Engineering profile, one area we discussed was the Tech Jobs Tour. This concept was started by Smith’s friend, Leanne Pittsford, as a way to connect the next generation of technical talent — who happen to be women, people of color, LGBTQ people, veterans and people with disabilities — to new careers. It also aims to bridge the divide between the American workforce and tech companies, which are expected to have 1 million open jobs by 2020.
The Tour has already traveled to almost 50 cities across the country and featured more than 150 companies. In total, 50,000 people have engaged with these companies, via career fairs, speed mentoring sessions, workshops and talks.
Smith noted that it’s all kinds of people who show up. It’s not just the tech folks, but it’s mayors and people in city services and people who work at local churches — a bit of everyone.
“It’s a massively intersectional experience,” she said. “But we also do speed mentoring, and resume reviews. It’s very hand-on. So, if you can have a primary conversation with another person from your town about what you’re trying to do, and they are a little bit further ahead, it’s like an apprentice talking with a master.”
Smith said that when the tour goes to a city that’s known for tech, they try to focus on people who live there but have not been included in the future economy — they try to pull those people in.
“Memphis is such a great example,” Smith said. “You know, Memphis has FedEx, AutoZone, ServiceMaster — incredible companies. But starving. And you have 45,000 young people out of school and out of work. And you could bridge that with these types of short courses. Think of it as a community organizing situation. That’s what the Tech Jobs Tour is really about.”
There’s so much talent in this country, much of it in smaller cities and towns, and we need to encourage more programs like the Tech Jobs Tour. Maybe we need to develop a Manufacturing Tech Jobs Tour, to show young people, as well as those who have been displaced mid-career, about the huge range of good paying jobs that are available in the manufacturing economy.
I encourage you to check out techjobstour.com and get your company involved — or if you know someone out of work and looking for a new opportunity, suggest they attend the next nearby tour location.