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For an industry with such a strong hand in shaping our
futures, IT often has fallen short in one important area: training people for
tech careers.

It’s not that there isn’t any training. Plenty of vendors,
channel companies and third parties offer quality IT training, but curricula
typically are designed for people already in the industry working on specific
technology and products. When it comes to preparing young people for tech
careers and retraining folks from other industries to make the transition to
IT, a lot more could be done.

That is why I was pleased to see a new education initiative
from the Computing Technology Industry Association that could go a long way to
not only preparing people for IT careers but also helping to address a
near-constant skills gap in the industry’s workforce.

CompTIA has invested in education over the years through its
Educational Foundation, but now the association is taking things up a notch or
two with a plan to open training sites around the country for folks who may not
otherwise have a chance to get IT training.

Specifically, CompTIA is targeting military personnel
reentering civilian life and workers displaced from other industries. The
association also wants to help women, African Americans and Latinos get IT

To better reflect its forward-looking mission, CompTIA has
renamed the foundation as the Creating IT Futures
Foundation. The organization believes the new name will set its initiative
apart from its other educational programs while attracting donors to fund this
important mission. The association actively seeks contributions from
individuals, grant-making bodies and IT companies.

Later this year, the Creating IT
Futures Foundation plans to launch three beta training sites and use them as a
model for further expansion throughout the country. The foundation is refining
its programs to better reflect the needs of IT employers, who often complain of
a skills gap in the workforce.

Even through the soft economy of
the past couple of years, IT employers have found it difficult to fill certain
positions. This issue has generated much debate over the years, with critics
saying employers demand too much without investing enough in training people.

In February, the education-focused
IT association SHARE published a report based on a poll of 376 employers, which
found that one in four employers have concerns about the technical aptitude of
their new hires.

Close to 40 percent of employers
said the new hires don’t have enough preparation to perform their jobs and 44
percent of respondents said they found notable gaps in these employees’ skills.
A mere 8 percent of respondents qualified their new hires as “well trained,
ready to go.” (SHARE also found that employers are very concerned about
business skills, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Some of these results owe to
unrealistic expectations. It seems to me that regardless of industry, you
always have to undergo some training, even if on the job, whenever you start in
a new company.

Retraining displaced workers from
downsized industries, as CompTIA is doing with Creating IT Futures, certainly
can help close some gaps, but let’s face it, these folks are not as a rule
going to take on the most technically-demanding jobs right off the bat. So
employers, too, have a responsibility to invest in the training of their own

In addition, IT companies have a
responsibility to get involved in education overall. It’s a responsibility that
some, such as IBM, take seriously, but not all. I’d like to see more
partnerships with universities and school districts. Employers say colleges and
universities don’t teach enough essential IT skills. If that’s the case, they
need to get in there and work as partners with educational institutions to
improve this record.

And certainly I believe IT
companies should get involved in the Creating IT Futures initiative. This is a
great opportunity for the industry to do something it needs to do a lot more of
– train ex-servicemen and women, mommies looking to get back in the workforce,
and blacks and Latinos looking for work. Remember, though current unemployment
is about 9 percent, the rate is at least 11 percent for Hispanics and 16
percent for African Americans.

CompTIA has an enviable track
record of addressing issues in the IT industry, but the association cannot go
it alone. If Creating IT Futures is to be as successful as it should, the
industry as a whole needs to support this mission.


Pedro Pereira is a columnist for
Channel Insider and a freelance writer. He can be reached at