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Alternative Hiring Pathways for Tech Talent
Published on: October 7, 2021
office building with people in a conference room

The global pandemic has introduced factors which have significantly altered the job market. Many businesses currently face understaffing and a seemingly insufficient tech talent pool, making it difficult to find qualified, competent candidates. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 10.9 million job openings as of July 2021. In a report entitled “The COVID-19 Labor Shortage,” the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) cites that nearly ninety percent of businesses surveyed are having trouble filling certain vacancies. Additionally, the increased focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges employers to foster inclusivity in both hiring and overall company culture, especially within the tech sphere. 

So, how can hiring managers and business owners overcome these challenges to find diverse, committed, and skilled applicants? If traditional methods are proving ineffective, perhaps we need to discover alternative talent pathways.

Fortunately, lesser utilized talent pools do exist, and could have a potentially massive impact on organizations seeking tech talent.

Community Colleges 

Degree-based hiring has pervaded hiring in the United States for decades. The time for a shift in the degree-based hiring model has arrived. Head of Global Talent Acquisition for LinkedIn Jennifer Shappley remarks that “for employers looking to hire talented employees, it’s time to move away from hiring solely based on titles, degrees and schools to more of a focus on skills and abilities.” Searching for talent at community colleges could prove a great asset for employers redefining their hiring strategies to navigate present challenges in the market. Forbes contributing writer Christine Cruzvergara acknowledges community college as a key player in mitigating labor shortages and unemployment. Cruzvergara writes that community colleges are “hyper-responsive to the needs of local labor markets, often collaborating with policymakers and employers to design more direct pathways between the classroom and the workplace.” These institutions are designed to prepare students with the necessary skills to succeed in ever-changing industries such as technology. 

IBM and Ford are just two examples of large companies tapping into this talent source. IBM partners with more than ten community colleges nationwide to train individuals for tech jobs. Perhaps a primary motivation for companies like IBM and Ford is the function of community college to serve as representation of multitudinous communities across the US. Lower tuition opens doors to more a more diverse student body. Sourcing talent here can therefore help address the notoriously non-diverse tech industry. With often varying work experiences and diverse backgrounds, these students often possess the soft skills that help them excel in tech roles.

Modern Apprenticeships

The past couple of years have proven that our business environment is ever-changing and pushing us to continually adapt. While apprenticeship might strike you as an antiquated concept, consider its relevance in today’s job market. Apprenticeships taught and continue to teach marketable skills within communities focused on learning, practice, and growth.

The apprenticeship model curates individuals to succeed not just in a general sense within a given industry, but prepares them with a practical skill set tailored toward a specific occupation.

This longstanding tradition creates a workforce prepared to treat their position as a calling rather than simply a job. 

Alex Faust, COO for Growth Institute in Philadelphia, PA, experienced firsthand the benefits of hiring an apprentice from a program like New Apprenticeship. Faust notes that Growth’s apprentice “is a great guy to work with – the learning he gets outside of the office translates directly to what we do internally,” reiterating the applicable value an apprenticeship model can provide businesses.

Military Talent

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veteran unemployment increased to 6.5 percent in 2020, leaving 581,000 individuals unemployed. Transitioning out of service is certainly challenging, yet programs are in place to help equip veterans with the tools they need to succeed in a post-military career. The Employment Navigation Partnership Program (ENPP) partners with hiring organization such as LinkedIn and provides individualized career assistance to aid veterans in achieving their employment goals. ENPP incorporates skills assessments, resume reviews, and career exploration in order to connect and prepare this population for a fulfilling position. In addition to ENPP, the DOL Transition Assistance Program (TAP) boasts a full curriculum for those entering their civilian transition, including workshops geared toward technical career preparation.

Nonprofits dedicated to veterans are another potential talent bank. Partnering with an organization such as VetJobs or Hire Heroes can prove an invaluable resource to benefit both your hiring needs and veterans in need of employment as they transition into civilian life.

Technical High School Programs

Since technical high school programs are designed for education in specific occupations, they are an excellent resource for finding capable talent. Career and technology centers educate students for things like web design, CAD, digital media, and other technology-focused jobs. Rather than receiving a more generalized education that universities offer, these students receive training for specific roles. Ideally, this approach can help eliminate the perceived skills gap facing countless hiring managers. 

Tangential Industries with Transferable Skills

Applicants lacking directly related experience to a job description are often overlooked. However, those who have experience in tangential industries and possess transferable skills are worth examination. For instance, customer service industries like retail or hospitality teach soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, prioritization and empathy. A positive attitude and interpersonal skills necessary to succeed in customer-centric roles are needed by employers everywhere, particularly in client-facing tech roles. While some applicants might possess the necessary technical skills, they may lack equally important soft skills, which can be incredibly difficult to teach. If a candidate lacks direct experience, but has the desire to learn and applicable transferable skills, they are certainly worth a second look. 

Workforce Boards 

Finally, workforce boards can function as a great talent source for tech roles. These community based organizations identify needs in local job markets and coordinate partnerships to help fulfill these needs.

Workforce boards leverage a team of counselors dedicated to helping residents upskill or reskill to attain economic advancement.

According to the Dutchess County Workforce Investment Board, they work to align “employment, training, education, and supportive services that are needed by adults and youth, particularly those with barriers to employment,” therefore opening the door to a trained, diverse pool. Workforce board members can post job openings in the board’s career center and have access to funding opportunities as well.

Roy Maurer and Beth Mirza at SHRM state that currently more than forty percent of workers in the U.S. are actively seeking new employment. Employers face increasingly greater challenges to locate skilled and dependable workers amidst an apparent drought of qualified candidates. Consider alternative hiring pathways to cast a wider net and hopefully find applicants to suit your exact needs. If the apprenticeship model resonates with your goals, contact us today.