The tech industry holds tremendous appeal. It’s dynamic, creative, well-paid, and pivotal to making the digital economy tick. In 2022, not only did salaries increase across nearly all tech roles, plenty of high-wage openings remain.
Despite recent tech layoffs among some of the industry’s biggest players, eight of the top 10 “best jobs” in the U.S. this year are technology roles, and yet there is still a decline in current employment across tech jobs. Companies hiring tech talent are struggling to keep up—growing demand, accelerated digital transformation, and bias toward the tiny pool of graduates produced by elite computer science programs has left the industry scratching their collective heads.
College graduates are also facing issues finding employment, with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reporting that unemployment rates for recent graduates were higher than the national average of all workers. Add that to the 41.4 percent of all recent graduates who are underemployed, and you have a dismal picture.
U.S. colleges and universities collectively produce around 4 million graduates every year, creating a large pool of talent with untapped potential that could provide solutions for employers looking to optimize and build their own talent pipelines. Higher education can serve as the springboard that connects ambitious students who are ready to start their careers with tech employers in need of day-one ready tech talent. With the right talent enablement solution, students from any background can unlock these opportunities and become day-one ready for a career in tech. Here are three steps universities can take to connect students to these career launching opportunities:
1. Build Soft Skills
Day-one tech-readiness is not just about having the competencies and tech skills needed to complete job tasks. All employees need soft skills — “essential traits” that allow them to fit into any corporate culture — to perform and advance in their careers. Adaptability and resilience are of utmost importance, especially as employers continue to put an increasing value on the ability to learn on the job.
Korn Ferry’s Future of Work Trends 2022 report found that 69% of the world’s most admired companies value learning agility and the desire to learn new skills over career history for prospective employees. As employers look to non-traditional hiring models that put less emphasis on past job experiences and skill level, there will be even greater emphasis on soft skills such as resilience and aptitude in prospective candidates. Higher education has long been a source of soft skills development for students, yet by placing an extra emphasis on building these essential traits and contextualizing soft-skill value in the workplace, higher ed institutions can help position their students for career success.
2. Demystify Tech
Most people assume a high-paying tech career is out of the realm of possibility for them. But with the right opportunity, development, and support, tech jobs are accessible to people of any background. College is a unique opportunity to help students understand that a tech career might be on the table—a safe, controlled environment to learn and explore is also a chance to demystify a career path that feels unattainable to many. It’s the perfect opening to introduce non-IT/computer science students to the world of tech by offering experiences like career exploration events, visiting tech lecturer seminars, no-risk pre-career tech training, and tech industry townhalls to provide a more approachable view of the field and the career opportunities any student can pursue. The reality is that most businesses are undergoing digital transformation, and even students who don’t end up in the tech world will still benefit from digital literacy, while others may pursue tech with greater confidence once they are better prepared to navigate the industry.
3. Pick the Right Partners
There are pathways into the tech industry for students from any background—it’s not hard to find options, even for students without a traditional tech-related degree. Countless training programs exist to help students develop the skills needed to succeed, but most come with barriers to effectiveness. Tuition, opportunity cost, hire-ability, wasted learning, low/no career outcomes, and more continue to plague the tech-talent-development ecosystem in the US.
Partnerships with the right organizations can provide students and universities with access to life-changing resources such as embedded talent-enablement programs, tech immersion courses, custom-designed curricula, access to real-time industry expectations, and direct-to-employment career connections at little to no cost. Compiling resources and partnerships to expose more students to comprehensive, real-world experiences and training programs is a no-brainer.
The Bottom Line
Preparing students for the real world should include exploration of industries with strong labor demand and career ROI, as well as resources to help break into them. Tech is an exciting field—one that can offer financial stability and an engaging job. Through the right partnerships and talent development, universities and colleges can empower students from any background to pursue careers in tech and become imminently hire-able, day-one-ready professionals right at or right after graduation.
With a potential recession looming, higher education has a responsibility to take all possible opportunities to mobilize their students into sustainable careers. By providing students with resources to learn and grow their tech skills, any institution can position students for careers in tech, help transform the way that talent works, and fundamentally change the way we consider college and career in this country.
The author, Kennon Harrison, is Vice President of Workforce Partnerships, at Revature.