The Issue, Our Vision & Approach
The Seattle region imports more of its tech talent (almost 80%) than any other comparable region in the United States. Companies face recruiting and retention problems both because they can’t find the hires (local and elsewhere) that they need and because, in some fields, the candidates have many other options. At the root of this mismatch of demand (jobs open/expected across tech sectors) and supply (young people with the interests and skills to fill those jobs) is Washington's education system - K-12 through higher education.
K-12 - There are a number of major things that need to happen in our schools to better prepare all young people for the innovation economy opportunities: alignment of standards/assessments with world-class expectations; excellent educators at every level with the relevant interests, training and experiences (particularly in STEM fields); high quality computer science and STEM courses and experiences widely available in schools & communities; an understanding among youth of the opportunities created by the tech-driven economy and the requirements to participate; and funding that aligns to these priorities and includes high levels of accountability and support.
Higher Education - While funding and capacity remain critical issues for public higher education, the Tech Alliance is focused on the imbalance in ‘seats’ to meet either student demand or industry needs for STEM majors. This extends beyond the state’s four-year universities and requires looking at creative approaches to the supply side - from advanced degrees like those to be offered by University of Washington-Microsoft’ GIX partnership, to two-year institutions’ capacity to offer four-year degrees like with Bellevue College, to the range of programmer bootcamps offered in the region, to apprenticeship programs for more mid-tier tech related jobs.
And common to both K-12 and Higher Education is the need to diversify the talent pipeline by engaging more females and minorities at every stage. Making changes to the education system - at any level - is generally a heavy lift: the scale is tremendous, the impact timelines are long, the barriers are many, the players on the field are plentiful and polarized, and the graveyard of reforms is full. Yet opportunity shows up every day in the form of a student eager to learn and an educator privileged to impart knowledge. The Tech Alliance has built an approach that is mindful of this context - the constraints and the possibilities, and best leverages the organization's assets.
Solutions & Approaches
To address the mismatch in the talent pipeline, we collectively need to champion a big goal, one that we know will make a quantifiable difference in closing this gap. Let's commit to 70% of Washington’s high school graduates having some formal introduction to higher level math or computer science by 2020.
The levers that need to be pushed to reach this goal include policy changes, demand-building among youth, supply-building among educators, and sharing of best practices. The Technology Alliance is well positioned to address the latter three, leaving policy advoacy to the many great organizations already leading in that space. Our focus is on demonstrating creative, impactful approaches that move us closer to the 70% goal.
In 2017-18, we will...
- Introduce young people to tech-driven fields and careers - develop a data-driven job & interest explorer app that connects youth's interests with the stats, stories and educational pathways of great jobs in their communities;
Shed light on the STEM pipeline in the state - conduct original research to show access and exposure to K12 STEM enrichment programs around the state and share new information on women's representation in the Washington tech workforce at different levels (Fall 2018).
If you are interested in getting involved as a partner, volunteer, or sponsor of this work, please contact us for more information.