Monday, February 1, 2016

TechHire Utah Initiative

TechHire Utah is a new job training program that allows Utah residents to quickly learn new skills for high-demand IT jobs in the Silicon Slopes. Utah Valley University (UVU) is now offering new, low-cost, accelerated programs for software development and related high-tech jobs. Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) will follow their lead with new course offerings very soon. And Pluralsight is working on new, online offerings. In addition to EMC, key partners for this initiative include the Utah Technology Council (UTC), Innovate+Educate, and Comcast.

UTC and Innovate+Educate led the charge to secure a $280,000 grant from the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership (UCAP), which is backed by Utah's Department of Workforce Services (DWS), Utah's System of Higher Education (USHE), and the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), including the STEM Action Center. The universities and Pluralsight are providing the instructors, content, venue, etc. Comcast is helping with publicity.

The target audience is returned veterans, high school students, people in low-tech, low-paying jobs who want a change, or people in companies who simply more career options in the same company.

Check out for just a few of the EMC jobs currently available in Utah. (Note: If you go to the url without clicking on the link be sure to search with "Utah" in the Quick Job Search field.)


  1. The creation of large retraining programs is good to hear. Retraining is slow and expensive for each individual, but retraining groups of people shares some of the fixed costs and provides a structured system of development and output. That is, curriculum can be standardized and have specific graduation requirements. With cohorts advancing through stages a person who needs it can fall back to a following cohort if they need more training time in an area.

    The other half of the problem is changing hiring processes at companies where these people could be placed. I am watching someone first hand trying to get hired and it's terribly broken at most companies. If this isn't addressed with local Salt Lake companies, this retraining will end in frustration and fewer jobs than expected.

    These are specific problem behaviors of many companies:
    1. Applicants are never communicated with after application unless an interview is desired. Rejections are not issued, meaning there is no feedback of whether a person is unqualified or position was filled.
    2. Applications are a one-shot process, there is no interaction to see if, upon further elaboration, an applicant may be a good fit.
    3. Hiring is very "bucket-ized" where, depending on specific checkboxes you fill on an application, an applicant will be rejected immediately. Applicants are viewed very narrowly for a specific job rather than general skills.

    Is the Tech Hire program working on changing job hiring practices as well? If not, retrained people, competent and ready to learn they may be, will be unable to get past automatic filtering systems and other invisible hurdles. This merits as much attention from the program.

    I would highly suggest the Tech Hire program's directors dedicate resources and responsibility to someone to focus on the hiring issue.

    And note: the wrong solution would be to create a new application system specific to Tech Hire companies and the people in the program. That creates another silo that only benefits the specific program; The broader problem is that eager, intelligent people in our communities are not able to get into jobs and we need to solve that problem.

    I would be interested in the author's take on this, given his deeper knowledge of the program and the local tech industry.

    1. Carl - First, thanks for reading & commenting. Second, I'm sorry your friend is having such a hard time. You're right about the fact that training for high-tech skills is only part of the equation here. Clearly, the people with those skills need to get matched to the companies with the jobs. One of the fascinating things about Utah is our low unemployment rate. At the same time, many of those employed people are probably under-employed. And that's what programs like this will help address. You would think that the low unemployment would decrease the number of applicants for any given job. While that's probably true for no/low-skilled, hourly jobs, it isn't true for high-tech jobs. There are still a lot of applicants (Remember: under-employment). That often drives bad behavior on the part of the recruiter or hiring manager. I completely agree with you that ALL applicants deserve feedback of some kind, even if only a rejection email. And while I understand your perspective on the other 2 points, I question the feasibility of a solution during our continuing growth mode in the Silicon Slopes.

      To my knowledge, the TechHire initiative is not trying to solve this problem specifically. They are focused on equipping people with high-demand IT skills. In the process of determining those skills, however, they have partnered closely with large high-tech employers, like EMC. In theory this means that they are matching the supply to the demand. Since the program is so new, this has yet to be proven out. I know the people behind the scenes at TechHire Utah and I will be sure to share this thread with them.

      Lastly, I want to make a comment about the realities of finding a job in our world of social networking. There are very few situations where someone finds a job just by applying to a job post online, even if seem to have all the right credentials This is especially true as you increase in skills and compensation. As an employer, I know that the best way I can find candidates for positions I want to fill is by getting referrals from my co-workers. As a job-seeker, the best way to find a job is by getting referrals from my friends and associates. So keep the back channels flowing while we (hopefully) address some of the front office issues.

  2. Thanks for responding. I'm glad to be learning about these programs, as I am a new transplant to SLC and looking to get involved.
    The importance of social network tools to land jobs through friends and extended networks is true. Most of the hires I see occurring are due to someone personally recommending someone. However, that's my major worry. Coming from a separate industry as a new career seeker, these people also have the weakest professional network relevant to their new career. You or I can reach, via our professional networks, into dozens or hundreds of companies easily, and we see our present colleagues doing the same. But that is after years of work in our fields to develop relationships, and of us and our colleagues spreading across companies.

    So I worry the assumption that social networking will work for retrainees is based on knowing how it works for established professionals. It would be interesting if someone has done research on this (will have to search), of taking a set of people in programs such as coding school and similar programs and tracking how they attempt to use their networks to get job interviews. Then there would be data on outcomes and how much it's a matter of effective use of those tools versus having existing network connections.

    My personal bet is there will be a gap (nationally) where effective training programs are turning out prepared job seekers but they have difficulty getting hired, though long term supply and demand will force changes. Coordinated local programs like Tech Hire with solid corporate partnerships will likely be effective. I suspect the next bottleneck in the process (getting hired) won't be generally realized for a while. To me, city/regional initiatives like Tech Hire Utah should consider their mission "Help retrain and place job seekers" and be careful not to stop at the "retrain" level, leaving the end-to-end economy goal incomplete.