April 2018 President Message

by Steven G. Zylstra

Steven G. Zylstra, President and CEO, Arizona Technology Council

When it comes to career opportunities, everyone deserves a chance.

That’s the message a group of Arizona Technology Council members and I took to Washington, D.C., recently as we met with lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill as part of the annual CompTIA DC Fly-In. (More details on page 4 of this section.)

In meetings throughout the day, we shared our concerns about workers lacking the skills needed to sustain a new economy built on technology. The state of this “skills gap,” as it is known, were detailed in a 2017 report issued by the trade association CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association). For example, 96 percent of the 600 IT and business executives surveyed believed too many workers lack advanced skills.

However, instead of telling members of the Arizona delegation to just fix it, we offered a ready-made solution. We asked them to cosponsor the bipartisan Championing Apprenticeships for New Careers and Employees in Technology (CHANCE in Tech) Act that was introduced in both the House and Senate last summer.

The proposal would provide hands-on, real-world upskilling by creating educational and job opportunities for high school students, early college STEM students, and postsecondary students. It would encourage high schools to redouble their career training efforts, ensuring students are provided with a strong STEM and IT career technology curriculum and diverse career pathway counseling. Additionally, it would create an intermediary body to drive industry-led, public-private partnerships to prepare a bigger pipeline of tech professionals.

Why is the measure focused on technology? If you think about it, which industry is not touched by technology? The gross output of the sector exceeds that of legal services, automotive, airline, motion pictures, hospitality and restaurants, to name just a few examples. Additionally, the skills are highly transferrable, as 80 percent of technology jobs are standard to related jobs in healthcare, manufacturing, financial services and others.

Even better, the public-private partnership created would be industry-led, not just another program dictated by government. And no new taxpayer dollars would be needed. In the last budget, $90 million was set aside for apprenticeship activities, which could be used to help fund the bill.

It was a pleasant surprise for our group to learn in our meeting with Rep. Kyrsten Sinema that she already was aware of the proposed CHANCE in Tech Act. In fact, she immediately agreed to sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

As for the others we met that day, we worked to bring them up to speed on the issue as we made our case. Fortunately, they all seemed to believe they could support the measure based on what they heard from us and committed to have their staff study it further. A “maybe” is still better than a “no.”

All we want is a CHANCE.

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