Bob’s Apprentice pitch in DC

February 26th, 2018
Bob’s Apprentice pitch in DC

FCC Chairman Ajit PaiThe word is Apprentice, part of the "CHANCE in Tech Act of 2018".  You may hear more of that in the future.  And it actually makes a certain level of sense, even in a bi-partisan way.

Backstory

Ok, here’s the backstory.  Last week I (and a couple hundred others) attended the 2018 “DC Fly-In,” an annual event sponsored by CompTIA.

A bit about CompTIA.  They’re a non-profit vendor neutral organization that promote the IT industry, primarily through education and certifications (like A+, network+, CASP).  They also do a fair amount of research and have several communities dealing with subsets (like security, MSP, cloud).  Pretty good group, especially if you’re looking for information about IT that isn’t “vendor-tainted.”

Back to the Fly-In.  For the past 7 years of so, CompTIA has sponsored an annual event where members (a majority representing State-level tech councils) descend onto Washington DC for 2 days.  It’s really a day and a half.

The Agenda

The focus of the event was to improve the position of the country in terms of IT.  Skilled workforce, nationwide broadband access and the future of BlockChains were the topics for the first day.  The Chairman of the FCC and representative of DHS were the speakers on the morning of the second day.

Enter the Apprentice

The Poster Child for this event is a bill or issue that focuses on the needs of both the Tech industry (organizations that create, support and/or maintain IT products and services) and Tech Occupation (people with IT jobs but in non-IT organizations).  It answers the age-old conundrum:

Employer:          You can’t have the job, because you don’t have experience.

Candidate:         I don’t have experience, because I can’t get a job.

Yup, we’re talking the age-old “skills gap.” 

The proposal that is currently making the rounds in DC is called “The CHANCE in Tech Act”.  Yup.  An Acronym.  But this issue is so important that they’ve gone well beyond the 3 letter acronym to 5.  “Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees” is what this overloaded acronym stands for.

Currently the societal approaches to filling this gap (studies suggest about 1.8 million unfilled tech jobs in the US by 2024) seem to be one of two methods:

  1. Internships.  Paid or not, there isn't a lot of guidance as to exactly what an intern would learn.  Here at Simplex-IT, we've had about a dozen or so paid interns.  All of them are currently working in IT (to the best of my knowledge).  Two of them are actually still with us as full-time technicians.  But the lack of focus (I've heard many tales of interns where the job is to get coffee or make sure the copier works) make sit difficult to define the value in terms of marketable job skills.
  2. Paid education.  Ok, on the surface this sounds (and actually is, IMHO) great.  But the problem is not everybody can pay for (or needs) the full 4-year degree.  Ok, so tech school.  These can also be great.  But they don't necessarily address the specific jobs (and skills) that are currently unfilled.

The Chance in Tech Act brings back the age-old Apprentice concept.  Where an employee actually learns the trade/skills at the place of employment that currently needs those skills.  It's a career pathway that actually partners the employer and employee into a win-win relationship.

To learn more about the Chance in Tech Act:

Here’s a press release from CompTIA about the concept.  It’s actually a pretty straightforward concept.

If you’d prefer to read the text of the bill itself (and I know you want to) click here.

So far over 2 dozen representatives who are cosponsoring and/or supporting the bill.  And guess what?!  There’s a decent mix of both Republicans and Democrats!

Bob and Carlton’s Excellent Adventure:

The big part of the event is when the attendees break into groups based on their representative state, and then (accompanied by a guide) head off to Capitol Hill and meet with folks (and talk about the Apprentice concept).

Sadly, Ohio is never represented terribly well (in terms of numbers) at this event in the 3 years I’ve attended.  Several states (Tennessee and Arizona come to mind) had around a dozen people each.  The most I’ve seen from Ohio?  3.

Ohio had to make due with myself and Carlton Ramsey, Past President of the Akron Chapter of the AITP (Association of Information Technology Professionals, which is now part of CompTIA, by the way).

Carlton and I met with staff members of both Senators Portman and Brown.  We then had meetings with staff members of Congressmembers Ryan, Kaptur and Joyce.  Very pleasant and (hopefully) productive meetings.  I left each of them a copy of my book, “A CEO’s Survival Guide to Information Technology”.  They all did a really good job of hiding their absolute excitement on that part.

From there?  Back to the airport, and home.

Summary:

Do events like these make a difference?  I dunno.  Does the Chance bill stand a chance?  Again, I dunno.  Do I think the bill is a good idea?  Yup, I do.

Will I be back there next year?  Probably.