Sunday, March 22, 2015

March 5, 2015, JobFirstNYC's "A Look at the IT Sector" event

Panelists discuss pathways into the IT sector for low-income young adults at 
JobFirstNYC's "A Look at the IT Sector" event on March 5, 2015.

Many thanks to our panelists, from left to right:
  • Katy Belot, Partnership for New York City
  • Angie Kamath, Per Scholas
  • Jan'Ann Lieberman, Time Warner Cable
  • Jose Velez, Swiss Post Solutions
  • Aliya Merali, Coalition for Queens (C4Q)
  • Miquela Craytor, NYC Economic Development Corporation

In March 2015, the Obama Administration announced the $100 million TechHire initiative to promote collaborations between employers, training institutions and local governments that target low-skilled workers who don't have easy access to training. New York City is one of 20 regions that will receive funding under the initiative.

At the national level, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) intensive industries – ranging from Aerospace Products & Parts to Wireless Telecommunications – added almost 1 million jobs between 2010-2013, or nearly 18 percent of the nation’s total job growth, growing nearly twice as fast as in the rest of the economy.  In New York City, jobs in tech companies offer salaries that average $85,619.  For young adults, STEM careers provide a pathway to the middle class.  This is especially important for those with limited academic achievements, as technology firms like Google increasingly recognize that skills and innate qualities, rather than prestigious degrees, are the most important predictors of success on the job.

On March 5, 2015, JobsFirstNYC gathered some 70 workforce development leadership, management / supervisory staff, funders and employers at The Conference Center in midtown Manhattan to discuss trends in the IT labor market, and highlight models of training and placement that enable young people to move into STEM occupations.

The session began with opening remarks from JobsFirstNYC Board Member Greg Hambric of Modell’s Sporting Goods; Marjorie Parker, Deputy Executive Director of JobsFirstNYC; Gayle Jennings-O’Byrne, Vice President of JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy; and Kristen Titus, the Founding Director of New York City’s Tech Talent Pipeline.  Each emphasized the importance of training young adults and connecting them to employers in a timely manner to fill the growing number of tech-related jobs.  

Lesley Hirsch, Director of the NYC Labor Market Information Service at CUNY's Center for Urban Research provided statistics, trends, and an overall look of the IT sector and IT sector occupations in NYC.  The city is currently experiencing significant growth in demand for app developers, network architects, web developers, and cyber security specialists, although the number of jobs for database administrators and computer support specialists remains flat.

Representatives from employers and CBOs then joined together for a panel discussion on the NYC IT sector and IT occupations, facilitated by Katy Belot of Partnership for New York City.   The panelists each described the work of their organization / company, including best practices, challenges, sector needs, and critical skills that job seekers should possess.

  • Angie Kamath, Executive Director of Per Scholas described its YouthBridge IT Prep program. Per Scholas has partnered with FEGS to provide the literacy and numeracy enrichment that participants need in order to undertake rigorous IT training.  Per Scholas also works closely with employers such as Time Warner Cable and Bloomberg to integrate the hard and soft skills that employers demand. 
  • Aliya Merali, Director of Learning & Access for Coalition for Queens (C4Q) described her organization's nine month Access Code training for entry level IT sector occupations. The program provides hard and soft skills training, and prepares participants for both traditional workplaces and start-up environments.
  • Jan’Ann Liberman, Director of Talent Acquisition for Time Warner Cable explained how many of the occupations and jobs are technical, but soft skills are required to carry out the customer service arm of the company to its clients. Strong soft skills are necessary also to advance within Time Warner Cable’s own talent pipeline program that provides training for advancement within the company. With the relationship that it has built with working with hiring participants from Per Scholas, Time Warner Cable has been able to improve its utilization of CBOs as a resource for its talent development.
  • Jose Velez, Director of Information Technology & Corporate Trainer, North America for Swiss Post Solutions echoed the importance of strong and sustainable CBO-employer relationships and soft skills training. Swiss Post Solutions has invested a significant amount of time in identifying and developing 30 partners and the redesign of its internship development program to address soft skills development.  Swiss Post Solutions has seen more gains in retention and engagement amongst participants and employers as a result of the program redesign.
  • Miquela Craytor, Director of NYC Industrial and Income Mobility Initiatives for NYC Economic Development Corporation provided an overview of IT-related initiatives at the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC). From its program on micro-task jobs, the EDC learned that program participants wanted to gain certifications such as training in Microsoft Office suite products rather than specific programming content. Outcomes of this program highlighted to the EDC on the need to readjust its program and curriculum and also the clarification and marketing of program goals and expectations for both the program staff and participants.
The speakers and panelists agreed on four key takeaways from the day's proceedings for workforce organizations:
  1. Understand labor market data and differentiate between the IT sector and IT occupations that can be found in other sectors.
  2. Soft skills training is critical even for technical positions, often serving as the critical differentiator for job applicants.
  3. Develop and maintain strong employer engagement to create a pipeline to good jobs.
  4. Be open, creative, and innovative

The reaction of attendees was universally positive.  "Thanks for a fantastic session about tech sector youth employment! Lots to think about," one wrote. Added another, "This event was fantastic!"

Click here for a full proceedings summary and a copy of the NYCLMIS presentation.

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