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Obama announces $100 million initiative to bolster tech hiring

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After going after the minimum wage, President Obama is turning attention to the tech sector, with a plan that calls for the hiring of more tech workers. Announced yesterday, the TechHire Initiative is a mix of agreements between the government and private companies in more than 20 different areas, as well as $100 million in federal investments. The end goal is to get Americans training to work in higher-paying technology jobs.

The program aims to train people in skills such as coding, both through the universities and colleges that have traditionally produced tech workers, but also through nontraditional online training courses and bootcamps. The government is working with business advisory groups to construct both an aptitude test employers can use to gauge candidates who have completed nontraditional courses, and a guide for recruiting tech workers who aren't necessarily computer science graduates from four-year universities. Two-thirds of the country's tech jobs are in unrelated sectors such as healthcare — the new guidelines are expected to help employers choose candidates they might not have found before.

The focus is on nontraditional courses and bootcamps for tech training

To support the initiative, the Obama administration will offer $100 million in grants to training programs that help individuals with barriers to training, such as disabilities, child care responsibilities, and limited English proficiency. Groups in the private sector have also committed to offer free training courses and expanded coding bootcamps to low-income individuals and groups underserved and underrepresented in tech, including women, minorities, and veterans. Cities with close ties to tech such as San Francisco and Los Angeles were among the 21 communities that committed to the government's new scheme, but the group also includes areas without established ties to the tech industry, such as rural Eastern Kentucky, Memphis, and Albuquerque.

"It turns out it doesn't matter where you learned code," the president said, explaining why his administration was pushing employers to consider nontraditional courses for employees. "it just matters how good you are at writing code." Of the 5 million jobs the White House says are available in America today, more than half a million are in IT, in fields such as software development, network administration, and cybersecurity — many of which, the White House notes, didn't exist ten years ago. The TechHire Initiative, with its focus on rapid training in new skills, could help the government fill those empty jobs in months, rather than years.