CompTIA D.C. Fly-In Seeks to Advance the IT Workforce

by Debra B. McCraw | Feb 28, 2017

Earlier this month, CompTIA hosted its sixth annual D.C. Fly-In, in partnership with the Technology Councils of North America. More than 140 technology executives and businesses representing 29 states gathered in Washington, D.C., to discuss technology issues including the IT workforce, cybersecurity, apprenticeships and more. February 14 included a working lunch, policy summit and reception honoring CompTIA Tech Champions. On February 15, attendees met with members of Congress to advocate on behalf of the IT industry.

Advancing the IT Workforce

A working lunch titled “Advancing the Tech Workforce” kicked off the two-day event, with speakers including CompTIA Executive Vice President of Public Advocacy Elizabeth Hyman, Washington Technology Industry Association (WTIA) Workforce Institute Executive Director Jennifer Carlson and Creating IT Futures CEO Charles Eaton.

Hyman discussed the proposed Championing New Careers and Employees (CHANCE) in Technology Act, urging Congress to move forward the legislation that supports work-based learning as an alternative education model.

“We want to address the IT skills gap and build the pipeline,” she said. “To do that, we need to prepare individuals, and particularly underrepresented students, for IT careers and provide a clear educational pathway for them to learn industry IT skills needed for success.”

Carlson and Eaton described how their programs fit into this larger proposal. Carlson said the Apprenti program, a state-accredited federally funded apprenticeship program that trains future tech workers by assessing candidates, arranging up to five months of training and partnering with employers to place job seekers in one-year paid apprenticeships.

Creating IT Futures operates the Early College STEM School program, which allows high school students to earn their high school diploma, work toward an associate’s degree or IT certification and participate in youth apprenticeships simultaneously. The nonprofit also runs IT-Ready, which provides eight weeks of full-time technical and soft skills training at no cost to participants who are unemployed or underemployed. Graduates then take the CompTIA A+ exam and are placed into jobs with local employers.

“Programs like ours can be attached to Apprenti,” Eaton said. “Both are vetted and allow employers to make the immediate IT hires they need … The key here is this: quality and consistency, and it is possible. It’s all about execution.”

Filling the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline

During the CompTIA Fly-In Tech Policy Summit, a panel of industry and policy experts weighed in on the cybersecurity workforce pipeline.

“Cybersecurity is a new frontier and we’re right in the wheelhouse of enormous growth,” said Rick Geritz, CEO of LifeJourney and panel moderator.

In trying to define the term “cyber job,” Bill Newhouse, deputy director for the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Program Office at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), said that his office is working with government and industry to develop a framework and pathway for a national cybersecurity education program. That framework includes CyberSeek, the interactive online tool that connects skilled IT professionals with cybersecurity job openings. Other panelists commented on why it’s so difficult to define the role.

“[Cybersecurity is] not just its own industry but cuts across every industry,” said Chase Norlin, founder and CEO of Transmosis. “We truly have a marketing problem and need to explain the scope of cybersecurity.”

Lynne Clark of the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Program Office chimed in as well, saying her office is helping to define the requirements for the cybersecurity profession, especially where it comes to defending the United States, as the program is a joint initiative of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Department of Homeland Security. She added that the NSA also jointly funds GenCyber to provide cybersecurity summer camps to middle and high school students. It also helps teachers learn how to teach cybersecurity.

“As we become more reliant on cyber-based technology, we want these students to be inspired and to direct their talents in this area that is so critical to the future of our country’s national and economic security,” Clark said.

Recognizing Tech Champions in Congress and Industry

CompTIA also honored three Tech Champions for their leadership in technology and their support of policies that advance IT. This year’s recipients included Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Ron Culler, chief technology officer of Secure Designs, Inc.

Read more about the 2017 CompTIA D.C. Fly-In on CompTIA’s membership blog.

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