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More IT jobs than there are IT workers

January 13, 2019

The rapid pace of change in technology is creating both new types of jobs and urgent demand for technical skills. San Antonio is projected to outpace the nation with a 12 percent increase in information technology jobs by 2023, according to the new SA Works Jobs Report.

However, only 24 percent of technology jobs were filled in the Alamo City last year. We’re not alone. The U.S. Department of Labor’s latest reports indicate that there are 7.1 million job openings in America and only 6 million available workers. Left unchecked, the skills gap will increase intercity talent war and take its toll on our city’s and country’s growth and prosperity.

Meanwhile, the same technological advancements that are creating jobs are putting some workers in a double disadvantage: Those in less complex roles are most likely to experience disruption from automation, yet they have fewer resources to skill up or transition to new career pathways, Accenture research found.

There are ways to reskill the disrupted workforce and enable communities that have been traditionally underrepresented in corporate America to participate in the upside of the innovation economy — from those with an associate degree to veterans transitioning out of active service. Enter apprenticeships — powerful mechanisms that enable people to become contributing members of the digital workforce. With speed.

Accenture’s apprenticeship program, launched in 2017 in the San Antonio Eastside Promise Zone with 50 participants, demonstrated that through creative collaboration with local government, nonprofit and academia, people with the right attitude and aptitude can be ready for many entry-level technology jobs within three months through a combination of classroom and hands-on training. A four-year college degree is not always required.

Teaming with the city of San Antonio, Bexar County and several local partners, including SA Works, Project Quest and Workforce Solutions Alamo, we began by focusing on students from schools that include Sam Houston High School, adults in the community through our workforce partners, and veterans. We designed a 12-week program consisting of classroom training and hands-on experience with a goal to get participants ready for entry-level roles as application testers, system administrators, technical support specialists or project coordinators.

Several apprentices joined us full time afterward, and we gained access to a previously untapped talent pool — those whom we would not otherwise have sought out. It’s as equally likely that they would not have explored a career opportunity at Accenture. The success of the initial run reinforced our confidence in the approach and gave us momentum.

As we continue to refine our program, one of the key lessons has been the importance of placing a sharp focus on in-demand skills, like those in digital technology platform administration and development. This not only gives the apprentices the skills relevant to the digital economy and leads them to promising careers, but the participants also were more engaged and satisfied. Accenture has seen increasingly better outcomes by converting apprentices to full-time positions, and the San Antonio community benefits from the increased footprint of a highly employable workforce, further stimulating the local economy.

Apprenticeships show great promise in bridging the widening skills gap in San Antonio and the U.S., while providing communities historically underrepresented in corporate America with access to 21st century jobs.

For the apprenticeship model to be successful, employers, academia and workers must challenge the status quo. Organizations must embrace nontraditional ways to recruit talent, rethink their training model, and build a sustainable candidate pipeline through a network of committed community partners. We need academia to collaborate with industry to develop agile curriculums that closely reflect current and future needs of business and pathways to job-readiness for students. And workers must commit to a continuous learning mindset and take ownership in remaining relevant to the digital age.

The digital era presents new opportunities for innovation in almost everything we do, and that includes building San Antonio’s workforce of the future.

Ali Bokhari is managing director of Accenture Federal Services.

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