Dublin Tech Talent Pipeline Looks to Alternative Paths

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Dublin Tech Talent Pipeline Looks to Alternative PathsFrom left: Kevin Gadd, Apprenti Ohio program manager, Pinal Patel, vice president of software company Nexient, Chelsea Akers, Chris Patton and Chuck Xenakis. Photo by Taijuan Moorman.
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Editor’s note: The City of Dublin held its final #DublinRealityCheck workforce update of 2019 on Nov. 7. This article is an overview of the panel discussion that took place at The Exchange at Bridge Park.

The rush to fill growing technology roles in Central Ohio, and around the country, is at an all-time high.

In early 2019, Central Ohio hit its lowest unemployment rate in 18 years, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Between that, and the rise of software development roles (at a 63% increase from 2010), companies are spread thin for talent. This means finding talent through traditional routes is no longer a sustainable strategy.

Central Ohio technology leaders are in agreement about this. And as for reskillers and second-career seekers — i.e. adults who worked as laborers, service workers, and in other, often unrelated industries just months before — where there is opportunity, they will make a way. Enter: Alternative paths.

Companies like Seattle-based tech apprenticeship program Apprenti recognized this need and answered the call from companies desperate for tech talent. The nonprofit partners locally with boot camps like Tech Elevator and We Can Code IT, and pays for student training through funding by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Students receive consistent training and by the end of the program, they know what they’re going to be doing and where they’re going to work. Once they receive a job offer, Apprenti gives them a structure for on-the-job training during their first year.

Before Chris Patton was a software developer apprentice at Chase, he was active duty in the Army doing mapping and intelligence work. During a City of Dublin discussion panel on alternative paths, he said he’d seen software development in his work and found some interest in it. Then, a friend suggested he sign up for Apprenti.

“I ended up hopping on a plane, flying to Ohio,” he said. “I went to school for three months through Tech Elevator, and now I work at Chase.”

“In the beginning, it was very threatening,” said Patton. “It’s a very direct path into the field. And you’re gonna face challenges and it’s gonna be difficult, but it really just depends on how you look at it.”

In the past, there has been some hesitancy from employers in hiring reskilled workers. But programs like these take away much of the time and money that comes with training up new employees.

Chuck Xenakis, executive director of global technology recruiting for JPMorgan Chase, said about 5% of the bank’s new hires now come from alternative paths, including Java software engineers, C sharps and full-stack software engineers. That may sound small until you consider the company hires approximately a thousand people a year in Columbus alone.

Xenakis said companies do not have to have the huge financial power of a bank like Chase to hire from alternative paths.

“It can be done in any size company. If you’ve got a tech shop of 20 people, you can do this,” he said. “You don’t have to have lots of money to do it; you have to have time and desire.”

Panelists said companies are missing out if they are not open to recruiting these kinds of employees.

“The people who are enrolling in these programs are really dedicated. They have the drive and motivation, the aptitude to learn new skills,” said Chelsea Akers, COO of diversity consulting firm Level D&I Solutions. “So I think it’s a little bit silly for companies to not want to work with these types of candidates or to not want to bring them on.”

For anyone interested in getting into the tech field but unsure how, the panel offered suggestions, including getting involved with local technology groups like Women in Technology International and Black Tech 614, accessing free code camps online, and taking the time outside of work or school to practice.

Coding boot camps aren’t meant as a replacement to the traditional, four-year computer science degree, but an alternative for individuals who find their call to technology later in life. That makes their backgrounds and perspectives unique, said panelists.

“This is a great way to bring in people who have diverse backgrounds. Not just diversity in gender or race, but diverse backgrounds,” said Xenakis. “You get diversity of thought; somebody who’s passionate, hungry, and motivated; they make some of the best technologists and quite frankly in many cases, run circles around people with the right out of school, four-year [computer science] degree.”

For more information on #DublinRealityCheck, click here.

Our technology series is presented by our partners in the City of Dublin.

Dublin is a city of more than 47,000 residents located just northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The City of Dublin Economic Development team has a vision to make Dublin a Midwest IT Magnet through business leadership and sustainable workforce development. This commitment goes beyond short-term skills training to include long-term strategic and cultural support for the entire Dublin business community. Dublin is one of America’s Top 20 Creative Class Cities and is home to more than 20 corporate headquarters, an entrepreneurial center, 3,000+ businesses, world-class events and the urban, walkable Bridge Street District.

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