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TechHire Grants Aim To Make More IT Workers

The Department of Labor is offering $100 million to organizations that can teach needed tech skills.
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The Department of Labor, in conjunction with the TechHire initiative introduced by the White House in March, has published application details for grants from a $100 million fund to develop more technical talent for IT jobs.

TechHire aims to address what the White House describes as the "critical need of tech talent" among U.S. companies, a characterization that isn't universally accepted. To help workers, particularly young Americans, develop the skills needed in a variety of technically oriented industries, TechHire is providing funds to develop educational training programs like coding bootcamps and online courses.

The Department of Labor plans to award at least $100 million in H-1B funds, including at least $50 million specifically for programs to help young Americans (ages 17-29) receive the training necessary to work in H-1B industries, such as IT, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services, and broadband.

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The agency expects to award the grants ranging from $2 million to $5 million to approximately 35 public and private partnerships that provide training and education programs through nonprofit organizations, companies, labor organizations, and educational institutions. Any remaining grant funds will be reserved for programs that serve those with disabilities, limited English proficiency, or criminal records.

Grantees are expected to:

  • Provide accelerated learning programs, such as coding bootcamps or online classes
  • Work with employers to identify their needs and promote hiring from non-traditional training programs
  • Offer training strategies that address the challenges faced by program participants
  • Connect participants with hiring programs that can assist those without traditional degrees and career experience

On Tuesday, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith, Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez visited Baltimore, Md., to attend Baltimore's launch of its TechHire program.

Baltimore is one of 14 cities and states that have expanded commitments to provide access to tech training since June when President Obama increased the goal for the number of TechHire cities from 21 to 40 by the end of 2015.

The H-1B program has been under fire recently for failing to help American companies get needed technical talent because large outsourcing companies game the application process to their advantage. According to a New York Times report last week, 13 of the 20 companies that received the most H-1B visas in 2014 were global outsourcing companies. This means fewer visas are available for U.S. companies and jobs may move overseas.

While TechHire emphasizes a focus on younger workers, some training programs like Code Oregon specifically mention older workers seeking up-to-date technical training as potential participants. However, older workers, particularly women, may face age discrimination from hiring managers.

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