White House’s $100M TechHire Initiative Echoes with General Assembly

One of the criticisms often leveled at New York’s innovation scene, particularly from out-of-towners, is a need for more local people with skills in technology to help fill positions from entry-level jobs to rock-star developer opportunities.

A new federal program could help change that for people in different parts of the job market.

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced the TechHire initiative to offer $100 million in grants to help more Americans get the training they need to fill high-tech jobs. The program is aimed at low-skilled individuals, people with disabilities, and others who face barriers to the kind of education necessary to have a shot at such positions.

Some 21 communities including New York City, San Antonio, Detroit, and San Francisco—with a collective 120,000 tech jobs waiting to be filled—-are participating in the initiative.

The plan by the federal government is getting some support from Jake Schwartz, CEO of New York-based General Assembly, whose campuses provide training in technology and business skills. General Assembly, along with other education resources such as Flatiron School, will provide training under the initiative. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s NYC Tech Talent Pipeline is also working with the initiative.

With its 10 campuses across the country (plus four overseas), General Assembly has already been working on programs to help fill the education-to-employment gap among low- and middle-skilled workers, Schwartz says. The move by the White House and participating companies brings some much-needed weight to the issue of making tech education much more attainable, he says. “There are massive scale issues and massive accessibility issues,” Schwartz says, “but it’s a very exciting step in that direction.”

Last week, General Assembly hosted the kickoff of a program with Capital One to also make training in technology available to more people. For the TechHire initiative, General Assembly is helping to standardize training in a way that offers more people accessibility to technology and grants employers access to pools of talent, Schwartz says.

The hope for such efforts is to bring change across the job spectrum. This is part of a long-term evolution of rethinking what higher education means in this country, says Schwartz. “The skills gap is not the same thing as a startup not being able to find a really awesome JavaScript programmer,” he says.

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