In March, President Obama opened his TechHire initiative by saying, "If you can do the job, you should get the job." It's an easy idea to get behind, but as the President noted earlier in his speech, the path from learning new skills to working professionally in technology is riddled with barriers.
Take Terrence, a high school graduate living in St. Louis, MO. After high school, he worked at a copy services company. He was interested in computer programming and even pursued a few college-level courses. At night, in his free time, he taught himself how to code. He eventually began to use his coding knowledge to more efficiently carry out the responsibilities of his day job.
Terrence was a successful, driven programmer. But not on paper. If he submitted his resume through a typical company's HR process, he would be screened out--just because he lacked a degree and years of work experience. This story happens everyday in communities across the country: Companies are missing out on talent right in front of them, and people like Terrence, who have the skills and professionalism, are being locked out of jobs.
The Internet has made it easier for people to access knowledge, exchange information and build new skills. But if those skills cannot be translated into real opportunities, the value of the these resources is minimized.
Programmers are in high-demand by employers. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that one million jobs in computer programming will go unfilled by 2020.
To fill these positions, we need to ensure that everyone who has the ability to perform in these positions has the opportunity to do so. We can do this by breaking down the traditional barriers that prevent skilled people from attaining employment and creating new hiring models that attract a broader talent pool. Employers we work with at LaunchCode take on nontraditional candidates as apprentices so they can productively hire and develop talent they would not normally consider. These connections improve the lives of people and help companies grow. Ninety percent of the individuals that have been placed in apprenticeship positions through LaunchCode have eventually landed full-time positions at those companies -- including Terrence.
Terrence's story does not have to be unique. But in order to give talented, driven people like him the opportunity to get ahead, we need employers to totally re-engineer how they hire.
LaunchCode is a startup nonprofit that partners with over 300 companies nationwide to offer job placement and paid apprenticeships for aspiring developers and technologists. Learn more at www.launchcode.org.