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May 17, 2019 |

Advancing Women in IT Awards Are Just One Way CompTIA Aims to Grow Tech Industry Workforce

The awards for women in or entering IT is one element of a larger campaign aimed at motivating young people to help close the gap between tech workers needed and tech workers available, according to CompTIA exec Nancy Hammervik (pictured).

Drones. Robotics. Artificial intelligence. IT has arguably never been more interesting than it is today.

“Tech is getting fun now,” observes Nancy Hammervik, executive vice president of industry relations for membership organization CompTIA. “We’re not just talking about mainframes and networking.”

Yet motivating young people to enter IT has arguably never been harder, despite the fact that there will be a million open and mostly well-paying jobs in the technology sector by the end of this year, according to Hammervik.

CompTIA has made solving that puzzle the focus of an ambitious series of initiatives that include its second annual Advancing Women in IT Spotlight Awards. Sponsored by the association’s Advancing Women in IT (AWIT) community, the awards program is one of numerous efforts aimed at encouraging women and people of color in particular to pursue tech industry jobs.

“They don’t have the mentors and the coaches and the role models to inspire them that they can have a career in tech,” Hammervik observes. “We all need that, and we want to celebrate that.”

The AWIT awards call attention to three particular kinds of role model for women: “technical pacesetters” with top-rank technology skills and a reputation for community service; mentors who nurture the careers of other women; and industry leaders regularly consulted for insights and expertise.

Nominations will be accepted through June 1st for all three of those awards, plus the CompTIA/ChannelPro Cecilia Galvin Scholarship Award. Named after former ChannelPro Executive Editor Cecilia Galvin, who passed away two years ago, that honor grants $5,000 to a high school senior with a 2.7 or higher GPA, a strong interest in technology, and a history of helping others in her school and community.

Last year’s winner, who is currently pursuing a degree in electrical computer engineering, demonstrated both her passion for IT and her intrinsic leadership abilities as a member of TechGirlz, a Philadelphia non-profit that seeks to get young women interested in technology. Looking to scale the group’s impact more broadly, CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures charity acquired TechGirlz in March.

“We have been partnering with TechGirlz for quite some time,” Hammervik says. “Our intent is just to take what they’re doing, what they’ve done really well, and give them the resources and support to do more of it.”

Investments like that are one way CompTIA is taking on tech workforce challenges. Advocacy and evangelism through AWIT, as well as CompTIA’s Advancing Diversity in Technology and Future Leaders communities, is another. A central message underlying that outreach is that the IT industry, contrary to popular belief, is not suffering a “skills gap.” It’s suffering a confidence gap.

“Anybody can pursue a career in tech,” Hammervik says. “It’s more that folks don’t see themselves in a career in tech, either because they have these misconceived notions that it’s too hard, it’s too technical, it’s all about coding, kind of an isolated career, or because they don’t have role models.”

Much of the work CompTIA does in local school districts now aims to close that gap. “We’ve done research where we know that by 13 years old or so, a student may not know exactly what they want to do in life or what their career is, but they know what they don’t want to do,” Hammervik notes. “We want to do as much as we can, kind of early intervention at that middle school level, to encourage children when they don’t have these biases and stereotypes towards the industry.”

CompTIA is partnering in those efforts with the Technology Students of America (TSA), a non-profit organization with 250,000 members in some 2,000 chapters that promotes skills development in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics through competitions and other ventures. “We’re going to be big supporters of their national event,” Hammervik notes. Scheduled for July, that gathering takes place in National Harbor, Md., outside Washington D.C.

CompTIA’s Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) unit, meanwhile, has begun offering free student memberships. Launched in August 2017, AITP provides networking opportunities, mentoring resources, a job directory, and more to technicians and IT managers from outside the channel.

“We hope to take these kids that are coming out of TechGirlz, and high school, and the TSA experience and then [help them] become a student member at no charge with CompTIA, so we can help them transition, whether it’s through school or right into the industry,” Hammervik says.

The “right into the industry” part of that formula is an increasingly important component of CompTIA’s strategy for driving more people into IT careers. Young people can make their way into the tech industry every bit as successfully through two-year technical academies, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs, the group argues, as through traditional four-year colleges and universities.

“There are many other ways to enter the market besides a college degree,” Hammervik says, noting that high school graduates who earn one of CompTIA’s security or networking certifications often step immediately into a help desk job paying $45,000 to $50,000 a year and move up from there.

“People are starting to reevaluate what the ROI is on the investment in college and the expense that a four-year degree is,” Hammervik says, adding that CompTIA members and leaders regularly lobby vendors to join that trend. “We’re really gratified to see that some of the big tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and even IBM are dropping their requirements for college degrees,” she says.

The rules for the CompTIA/ChannelPro Cecilia Galvin Scholarship Award embrace that development by giving winners flexibility in how they use their grant money. “It does not have to be put towards college tuition,” Hammervik says. “If that’s not for you, if that’s not the direction you’re going in, the $5,000 that we’re awarding can be used towards technical training, CompTIA training, and certifications.”

The goal of the award, after all, is to get more women into IT. How they get there isn’t what matters.

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