White House TechHire Initiative: Calling All Coders

The White House TechHire Initiative looks to local code schools as models for tech skills development.

Curtis Franklin Jr., Senior Editor at Dark Reading

March 9, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="http://pixabay.com/en/users/StartupStockPhotos-690514/" target="_blank">StartupStockPhotos</a> via Pixabay)</p>

15 Hot Skill Sets For IT Pros In 2015

15 Hot Skill Sets For IT Pros In 2015

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The US of 2015 needs software developers the way the US of 1958 needed assembly line workers. Turning young people, veterans, and displaced workers into programmers is the goal of the TechHire initiative, announced by President Barack Obama in remarks given at the National League of Cities on Monday.

In a fact sheet distributed by the White House, TechHire is described as:

... a bold multi-sector effort and call to action to empower Americans with the skills they need, through universities and community colleges but also nontraditional approaches like "coding boot camps," and high-quality online courses that can rapidly train workers for a well-paying job, often in just a few months.

In order to empower those Americans, TechHire will work with existing community-based programs rather than build a new Federal training program from the ground up.

One of the programs TechHire will include is Code Louisville in Louisville, Ken. Michael Gritton is executive director of KentuckianaWorks, the Workforce Investment Board for the Greater Louisville region. He oversees programs based on, and making use of, many different federal and private grants. Gritton said that the attention stemming from an announcement like the President's can be very useful when building support for technical programs. "It's always a fantastic thing when the President highlights what you're doing. Our local leaders like to know that the President is paying attention," Gritton said in an interview with InformationWeek.

In addition, Gritton pointed to other significant benefits TechHire can bring to programs like Code Louisville. "[The White House is] creating a learning community of places who are trying to figure this out. We can learn from one another and steal the best ideas, just as other places are stealing from us," he said. As evidence of the opportunities presented by the "learning community," Gritton spoke of meeting representatives from Dev Bootcamp at a White House event. The attention provided by the initiative gave the Louisville organization substantially more credibility when talking with the Dev Bootcamp representatives about the possibility of working together.

[ Is the IT industry ready for code-school graduates? Read Code Schools: Right Path For Professional Programmers? ]

That collaboration is important because Dev Bootcamp has built programs for educating coders without requiring a four-year college education. "Not everyone is cut out or able to go to a traditional college, and the TechHire initiative highlights the fact that there are alternatives to developing those skills," said Hilary Wells, senior director of marketing for Dev Bootcamp. "Now, there's a national lens on the needs of people with specific technical skills developed in a relatively short period of time."

Rapid skills development is an explicit part of the structure and goals of the initiative. While agreeing that the university path is not for everyone, both Wells and Gritton are careful neither to downplay the importance of traditional four-year programs nor imply that code schools create substandard technical employees. "I don't think the two paths are mutually exclusive. I think it depends on the role the person wants to play and the company," Wells said. "We see a lot of people with an undergraduate degree, but it might not have been in computer science. They might be looking to change careers or augment the skills they learned in college with technical skills."

According to Gritton, "This is not a second-class citizen sort of effort at all. We're trying to fill the need for entry-level coders because companies need those levels. Once [the coders] get into the companies, the sky's the limit because the good people will rise." That's the theory, at least. Like so much in the "New Economy," TechHire is a mix of hope and experience.

"It's not clear that the boot camp efforts will scale. We don't know if we're going to educate and place enough people through this program, but it's our best theory," Gritton said. "Company leaders tell us that they need people with these skills at this skill level."

Wells agreed that the White House TechHire initiative represents an encouraging work in progress. "I don't think we know, yet, the long-term consequences of the choice between a traditional university program and a coding school," she said. Still, she cited the same need for hands-on skills mentioned by both Gritton and the White House as she looked forward. "No one's trying to say that the things you learn in a coding school are the same as you learn in a computer science program," said Wells. "But there are practical skills you learn in coding school that you might not learn in a computer science program."

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About the Author(s)

Curtis Franklin Jr.

Senior Editor at Dark Reading

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and other conferences.

Previously he was editor of Light Reading's Security Now and executive editor, technology, at InformationWeek where he was also executive producer of InformationWeek's online radio and podcast episodes.

Curtis has been writing about technologies and products in computing and networking since the early 1980s. He has contributed to a number of technology-industry publications including Enterprise Efficiency, ChannelWeb, Network Computing, InfoWorld, PCWorld, Dark Reading, and ITWorld.com on subjects ranging from mobile enterprise computing to enterprise security and wireless networking.

Curtis is the author of thousands of articles, the co-author of five books, and has been a frequent speaker at computer and networking industry conferences across North America and Europe. His most popular book, The Absolute Beginner's Guide to Podcasting, with co-author George Colombo, was published by Que Books. His most recent book, Cloud Computing: Technologies and Strategies of the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, was released in April 2010. His next book, Securing the Cloud: Security Strategies for the Ubiquitous Data Center, with co-author Brian Chee, is scheduled for release in the Fall of 2018.

When he's not writing, Curtis is a painter, photographer, cook, and multi-instrumentalist musician. He is active in amateur radio (KG4GWA), scuba diving, stand-up paddleboarding, and is a certified Florida Master Naturalist.

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