Todd Thibodeaux is the CEO of CompTIA, the Computing Technology Industry Association, the non-profit, global tech trade association connecting innovators with experienced technology solution providers, who together, are actively redefining the state of business technology.
I have had the pleasure of knowing Todd for past 10+ years, since the time when he interviewed for the CEO job. We have worked together in many capacities, most recently during my service to the Board of the Directors of CompTIA. I consider Todd a valued professional colleague and a friend. His vision for tech and how CompTIA can advance tech on the global stage is inspiring. Todd and his team do amazing work, every day, to help more people enter the tech workforce and to help tech play an ever more important role in just about every aspect of our personal and professional lives.
One of the critical issues facing the tech industry in recent years is a severe skills shortage. In my own professional life, hiring is one of the most difficult things we deal with as the labor market is so tight. As a nation and a global society, the amount of open tech jobs poses a real threat to our ability to progress and confront new challenges.
Todd wrote the following “Last Word” article for the current issue of CompTIA World magazine, the member magazine of CompTIA. I think what Todd has written is so important, that I wanted to share it here on my blog. I hope you find it as valuable as I do.
CompTIA CEO Todd Thibodeaux describes 10 ways we’re going to get there.
by Todd Thibodeaux
There are 36 million people in the global workforce today, and four million open tech positions globally – a gap of about 10 percent.
Expect that number to get even bigger. The number of open tech jobs has hit almost 800,000 in the U.S. All those people are not going to come from university degree programs and the traditional places from which we’ve been able to source our tech workforce in the past. We have to think of new things to do now to feed the tech talent pipeline as we go forward. Here’s how we’ll get there – in 10 steps.
1. Bridge the Confidence Gap We need to get more people to recognize they can work in the industry; to realize it’s not this mysterious, magical place that requires you to be Einstein or Stephen Hawking. Anybody can acquire the skills to come into tech. I ask everybody to talk to young people, to talk to people who are transitioning from one career to another, someone who’s not satisfied with their career, to say “Hey, you should actually look at tech, because you can acquire the skills to work in this industry.”
2. Realize Parents Are Part of the Problem and the Solution Parents a lot of times will mirror the things that they think they’re capable of, and then they’ll impress those upon their kids, thinking “Well, I was doing this type of job, my kid can do that.” So, we’re doubling our efforts this year to target parents to get that message more effectively to kids that they can work in the tech industry. We have to get parents to think more broadly about the industry and the types of people who can work in the industry.
3. Stop Emphasizing Math and Science as Integral to Success in a Tech Career Speaking on CNBC last year, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner recommended we stop focusing so much on coding, math and science and focus more on developing soft skills in our incoming workforce. People who start with strong sets of soft skills tend to do better when they get out into the workforce and can then acquire tech skills. Soft skills are so important; you don’t see people sitting down doing differential equations and calculus, or algebra even, in their day-today jobs.
4. Devote A Lot More Attention to Teacher Training We’re going to dramatically see the brain-drain that we’ve seen in other industries in the tech learning space. Teachers who are teaching tech today are in their fifties and sixties and they’re going to be retiring. We don’t have that young pipeline of teachers coming up who have the technical knowledge and skills to fill that gap. We need to do a lot more right now to build the next generation of tech teachers.
5. Reintegrate a Full Tech Curriculum in Pre-University Education Programs When you think about tech companies in general, the majority of people who are working for pure tech companies aren’t even in tech roles. They’re in marketing, sales, logistics, finance – you name it. From an education standpoint, we need to move away from the idea that you can do everything with just coding. We see more and more schools coming around to the idea that they need to reintegrate a full tech curriculum. We need this full perspective of what the industry really has and what it means, so kids see the full breath of jobs.
6. Deemphasize University Degrees and Emphasize Pre-Employment Training In my opinion, there’s virtually no entry level job that requires three to five full years of school. You can take just about anybody and give them six to nine months of training in a particular field and, if they have the ambition and drive, they can do it without having to go through the whole university degree process accumulating all this debt. We prove that every day in our IT-Ready program, where we take people who have no tech background – some of them have never even turned on a computer – and eight weeks later they’re job ready.
7. Start Building an Education System Now for a Future of AI, Robots And VR Emerging technologies can change an entire industry environment; to where we might have 40 percent of the workforce globally being disrupted, losing their jobs entirely or being asked to completely re-skill. The education system that we have today is unequipped and this idea that you have to go back to school if you want to shift career fields just doesn’t make sense if it’s on a huge scale. So, we need to create a system that can accommodate disruptive technologies like AI, robotics and VR.
8. Grades 9 to 12 Should Be More About Helping Kids Find Out What They’re Good At Schools are doing what they think is a really good job of preparing kids but spending all this time cramming them full of knowledge that they’ll probably never use. Today, so much of that information, if you need it you can find it almost instantly – we’re in a Google-era and all this information is available. We can do a lot better job of helping kids understand what things they might be good at and, because we know what kinds of skills are needed in particular jobs roles and industries, steering kids in that direction.
9. Employers Have to Step Up and Do Their Part Right now, we have employers being extremely picky; tending to only hire people who meet their exact qualifications and specifications for a job. But all those people are already working for somebody else. The market is tapped out. You have to be willing to take people who are only halfway there. Further, employers need to start looking in non-traditional places in nontraditional ways. They just keep posting ads in the exact same spots with the exact same qualifications – including college degrees.
10. Soft Skills Are More Important Than Entry-Level Knowledge In Most Cases In any industry, if you ask employers what’s the most important skills they see coming in, it’s not degrees, it’s not certifications … it’s soft skills and the ability to come in and be a functioning, communicative part of the team from day one. That’s the most important skill-set that we need to have for kids. So, if you know young people who seem to be great communicators and have soft skills, absolutely encourage them to work in the industry because it’s one of the best places that you can go.