Harnessing Local Talent: Leveraging Technology to Close the Skills Gap
Written by: Alex Curtis | Posted Oct 19, 2017

By Philip Hardin, Co-Founder and CEO of YouScience

After working in tech for more than 30 years, spearheading product and business development at companies like WebMD Corp. and Emdeon, Inc., I’ve seen firsthand the skills gap facing the information technology industry. Demand for technology professionals continues to expand rapidly as technology has become ubiquitous in all industries. Traditional “tech firms” must now compete with manufacturing, retail, banking, and other industries for technology talent.

From a labor supply perspective, the tech industry continues to predominantly attract a narrow band of talent, namely white males. We as technology leaders are losing a branding war where too many young women and students of color with the aptitude for technology do not believe they are qualified for, nor do they see the opportunities in, careers in technology. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It is both a moral and an economic imperative to expand and diversify our technology talent pipeline.

Recognizing more must be done to address this “skills gap”, we’ve spent the last 5 years collaborating with the Ball Foundation, the Human Resources Research Organization, and leading experts in career development counseling to develop a revolutionary career guidance platform called YouScience.

YouScience is designed to identify and align talent with the modern workforce. We combine real performance measures of aptitudes and comprehensive career data in one engaging online experience designed to help students make more informed decisions about their individual pathway from school to career. YouScience serves thousands of students in high schools, colleges, and beyond across the United States and in nine countries.

Recently, YouScience collaborated with the Georgia Governor’s Office on Student Achievement to provide the platform to more than 10,000 students in 51 high schools across the state. Additionally, we partnered in Tennessee with the Regions Foundation to offer YouScience to more than 3,000 AdviseTN and GearUP students. We wanted to help identify students’ aptitudes for in-demand careers, including aptitudes like numerical and sequential reasoning, spatial visualization and idea generation that are integral to jobs in software engineering and programming.

Our research confirmed there is absolutely no differences between the aptitudes of young men and women, regardless of race or ethnicity, for computer programming and technical analysis careers. While male students were more likely to self-identify as interested in technology-oriented careers, females were just as likely to have the aptitudes and natural abilities to excel in these jobs. In fact, our analysis of more than 10,000 students in Metropolitan Atlanta showed that female students were ten times more likely to demonstrate a high aptitude for computer programming than have a self-reported interest in programming.

Not only did YouScience identify a more robust pool of female and minority students with the aptitude for careers in technology, we also found more females with the abilities to perform jobs in other traditionally male-dominated industries, such as construction and manufacturing.

A few notable findings include:

  • Females in Tennessee were seven times more likely to show aptitude for in-demand industries like construction, manufacturing, maintenance and transportation relative to self-reported interest surveys.
  • The number of females with aptitude for computer technology, architecture and engineering in Tennessee doubled relative to traditional interest measures.
  • Additionally, the data in Georgia uncovered a more racially-diverse talent pool, with all races showing equal aptitude for key industries.

At YouScience, we consider this an exposure gap, not talent gap. There is no gender-based or race-based talent gap. Our data confirms today’s students have the natural abilities to excel in tomorrow’s jobs.

As an industry with a reputation for innovation, tech has a responsibility to help uncover and nurture that talent. We now have the technology to help students understand their own talent and more effectively engage them on a personal basis. I look forward to coordinating with others in the field to help America’s young people maximize their potential and compete in a larger, more diverse workforce.

Philip Hardin is the CEO and co-founder of YouScience, a career discovery profile designed to help students better understand their natural abilities, broaden awareness of career opportunities, and make more informed decisions about their individual pathway from education to career. To learn more about YouScience, visit www.youscience.com.