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Building the Full Stack: Stackable Credentials in ICT

Valley Vision held a regional Information and Communication Technologies careers advisory on October 12. The event showcased strong demand across all occupations and the need for a collaborative and concerted effort to address the expansive gap. According to data shared by the Center of Excellence for Labor Market Research, the ICT industry is set to have a projected 6% job growth over the next five years, accounting for 2,741 annual job openings in the Greater Sacramento six county region. With the median annual wage across the industry at $102,497, it presents a significant opportunity to align community members and priority populations to these lucrative pathways.

Diversity and inclusion were a hallmark of the event. With a current significant gap of 1,371 skilled workers required to meet the demand for ICT careers, the data from Center of Excellence illustrated an underrepresentation of significant portions of our populace. For instance, despite constituting 28% of the total workforce in the Greater Sacramento region, Hispanics and Latinos account for only 15% of the ICT workforce. Moreover, the disparity is pronounced in gender representation, with 71% of ICT workers identifying as male. This significant underrepresentation highlights an untapped potential within communities. By actively engaging and recruiting from underrepresented groups, the industry can not only create a more diverse and inclusive workforce but also benefit from a broader talent pool that better reflects the overall demographics of the region.

Employer representatives shared how ICT positions have become essential in a wide range of companies. The employer panel included representatives from Placer County, Microsoft Philanthropies, City of Roseville, and Swinerton, a national construction company. The discussion covered several key themes, including the most sought-after skills, the importance of recruiting from underrepresented communities, and the goal of providing more internships. In sharing insights about their respective organizations, the panelists showcased their commitment to fostering inclusivity and expanding opportunities for individuals by working more closely with the community colleges.

One specific example showcased specific alignment between a college and employer partner. Swinerton gave details on a partnership with Sierra Community College that demonstrated collaboration between industry and CTE programs. Sierra College created a series of courses matched to the ICT needs of Swinerton construction help desk positions. The college also worked with Swinerton to update job descriptions with matching course numbers in their listed qualifications. This alignment allows students to not only have the opportunity to participate in an internship but also makes explicit the relevance of their education to immediate employment.

The advisory showcased various pathways available for individuals to develop entry-level, ICT-related skills. The Sacramento Public Library shared information on free Adult Education Career Development classes in basic digital literacy and career readiness, including free certifications from Coursera and Gale, in cyber security and data analysis. Byte Back, a community based organization whose mission is to close the digital divide by providing under-resourced communities an equitable pathway into the digital economy, detailed their free 360 Digital Navigators program designed to help people gain technical digital skills. Their community-2-community approach supports digital navigators with the skills, resources, and knowledge necessary to assist fellow community members with gaining internet access and navigating everyday digital tasks imperative to work, health, education, and life. These two programs are examples of accessible building blocks in under-resourced communities that can be essential components of developing inclusive ICT career pathways.

All participants emphasized the need for continuous education and training in the field and illustrated how stackable skills and certifications, from community organizations to community colleges and industry partners, can collaborate to meet the current and projected demand. Additionally, continuous learning enables workers to stay updated with the necessary skills to thrive in an increasingly technology-driven workplace. Employer and workforce system partners working in collaboration can design effective pathways from neighborhoods to these promising careers.