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If you ask Amy Kardel, it’s all about people—people who need people.

Kardel is the chairwoman of the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) board of directors and president of Clever Ducks, an IT service provider. She sees workforce challenges as the IT industry’s biggest challenges, including both the skills gap for technology service providers and the shortage of qualified sales professionals. Kardel believes CompTIA’s highest priority is to figure out how to overcome these problems.

One of the steps CompTIA has taken during her tenure as chairwoman is the acquisition of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), which has regional chapters across the nation. According to Nancy Hammervik, CompTIA’s executive vice president of industry relations, this positions CompTIA as the trade association for companies in the IT industry, with AITP functioning as the professional association for individuals working in the industry.

“AITP is a piece of that solution,” Kardel explained. “It helps us reach and support the connections that will create the stories that entice workforce growth, providing a long arc of involvement through AITP—a very personal connection.” She plans to develop a “network of professionals who can work together to further their careers and encourage people to keep going” in the tech field.

Closing the Confidence Gap

Kardel said that one problem CompTIA has encountered in encouraging young people to pursue technology careers has been the confidence gap.

“The piece that really came to light at ChannelCon was the confidence gap,” she reported. “That is the inspiration behind the ‘Creating IT Futures’ project. We want to generate an ‘Oh, that’s what it takes’ effect.” (ChannelCon, CompTIA’s annual conference, was held last August.)

Kardel described the creation of a 50-person cohort that generated 900 applicants. The goal was to use a grant from the state of California to provide opportunities for returning veterans, mothers returning to the workforce and other groups of individuals.

“People only go into careers they can understand,” Kardel said. “We think people know what we do as MSPs, but that’s not necessarily the case.”

Kardel sees tremendous value in the fact that students can join AITP for free. “They can meet people in their own community that they can connect with to further their career opportunities,” she added.

Kardel pointed out that diversity is another component of the workforce challenge. “We want to talk about the economics of turning problems into opportunities,” she said. “It’s embarrassing that we have the gap between open jobs and no people to fill them. Having a diverse team creates better opportunities.

“We have Women in Technology (WIT), but we also have underrepresentation of African-American and Asian populations. We are working to break down those barriers.”

Kardel acknowledged that the work required to bring more—and more diverse—communities across the confidence gap is a long-term project, but most of CompTIA’s IT service provider members have an immediate need to fill open jobs. Recent studies report that there are more than a quarter-million open job requisitions in the IT industry in the United States.

Kardel pointed out that there are two ways to incorporate more skills into one’s practice—either by hiring new people or by training current workers. Her strongest recommendation to members is to consult the CompTIA IT Career Roadmap to determine which training paths to follow to gain new proficiencies. The site features excellent guidance, and a PDF version of the roadmap is available.