Five days after we wrote about the tech gap in Fargo, on March 9, President Obama announced the TechHire Initiative; a plan that is putting $100 million in grant money towards nationwide efforts to train Americans to be skilled in the tech field.


The Education

The TechHire Initiative is focusing on encouraging cities across the U.S to bolster their own tech-based programs and communities, such as with coding boot camps and online courses. Programs like Mike McGee’s Starter League in Chicago, Minneapolis’ Prime Digital Academy created by the Nerdery, or Girl Develop It – which has a chapter in Fargo – come to mind.

“It turns out, it doesn’t matter where you learned to code, it just matters how good you are in writing code. If you can do the job, you should get the job,” said President Obama, who is himself, the first President to write code.

The Private Sector

TechHire Initiative

The TechHire Initiative is also working with the private sector to help provide more accessible pathways for those interested in the tech field to land jobs, particularly those who are underrepresented in the tech industry.

“Companies like LinkedIn are going to use data to help identify the skills that employers need. Companies like Capitol One are going to help recruit train and employ more tech workers, not out of charity but because it’s a smart business decision,” President Obama said in his announcement. “All of this is going to help us to match the job to the worker.”

The Money

The financial incentive they are offering is a hefty one: $100 million in grant money, as a “competition,” President Obama said, for those who can create innovative ideas “to train and employe people who are underrepresented in tech.”

“At a time where we all lead digital lives, anyone who has a drive and a will to get into this field should have a way to do so,” President Obama said.

TechHire Initiative: We want YOU to learn how to code

The announcement comes in the wake of a nationwide resurgence of job openings, particularly tech jobs. In fact, of the 5 million current open positions reported in America, over half a million are in technology fields like software development, network administration, and cybersecurity – many of which did not even exist just a decade ago, as the report from the White House states.

However, as Prime Digital Academy President Mark Hurlburt said to Fox 9, “The big issue is that there aren’t people who are job ready in the market right now.”

TechHire Initiative

The TechHire Initiative aims to get more and more people to that job-ready stage.

“Business leaders across America tell us every day that they struggle to fill technology jobs at their companies,” said Shumway Marshall, Digital Director of Business Forward. “Meanwhile, millions of individuals struggle to find work. TechHire is a plan from the White House to help fill that gap.”

The President’s call-to-action

As of now there are 21 cities who have responded to the President’s call for a nationwide collaboration between growing tech communities – including some of Fargo’s neighbors like Minneapolis and Kansas City.

As for Fargo, the Small Business Administration (SBA) in North Dakota recently had a conference call with White House representatives about the details of the Initiative. However, ties between Fargo (and North Dakota as a whole) and the TechHire Initiative remain to be seen, according to Brittany Sickler, Economic Development Specialist with the SBA.

Cities that are a part of the Initiative commit to do these three things: practice non-traditional hiring, expand models for training that prepare students in months not years, and activate the tech community through local leadership. (Full description here.)

Fargo seems to fit the bill

I want to highlight a small chunk of how the White House described this:

“They [participating cities] will host local tech community gatherings with engaged employers, attract new non-traditional training providers to their regions, and bring visibility to existing local activities such as tech meet-ups, startup co-working spaces or startup-weekends.

Sound familiar? Go ahead, click on all those hyperlinks. Fargo, I think we can give ourselves some high-fives.

TechHire Initiative

Seeing this action taken on a national level is nothing but exciting for us here at Emerging Prairie. We look forward to seeing how it impacts our country as a whole, as well as our local tech community.

“Who knows,” Sickler said. “Maybe a champion could come out that would bring it to Fargo.”

Learn more about the TechHire Initiative here.

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Marisa Jackels