Congressman Derek Kilmer has introduced new legislation to advance the stewardship of technology careers, and he’s partnering with a big name in Tacoma tech to do it.
Cybersecurity firm Infoblox, which earlier this year designated the City of Destiny as its “Center of Excellence for Technology Innovation,” hosted Kilmer, D-6th Dist., at its Tacoma office for a press conference touting the Chance in Tech Act.
The legislation aims to help address the growing need for IT talent by encouraging public-private funding for apprenticeship programs in the tech sector.
Nearly 800,000 IT workers, Kilmer wrote in a blog post championing the measure last month, are expected to retire between now and 2024. And despite technology being ubiquitous — especially in young people’s hands, it seems —the industry is suffering a shortage of skilled workers.
“Employers need to be involved in doing something about the shortage of talent in the high-tech industry,” said Norma Lane, executive vice president of human resources at Infoblox. “It’s very clear to any high-tech company that IT-technology types and engineers are not available. They’re not entering the work force at even minutely close to what the need is going to be. And the need is growing.
“I would say it’s at least in the top five top-of-mind concerns for any CEO who is in a high-tech environment,” she added.
The proposed new federal law aims to provide students — both those with a technical background, as well as those without — with the encouragement and necessary skills to fill in the gaps in the IT and cybersecurity realms. The initiative is bipartisan and bicameral, pushing for public-private partnerships with companies like Infoblox to keep the apprenticeship pipeline strong. Kilmer also talked about setting up programs to recognize secondary schools that achieve high marks in providing IT training.
The growth of tech careers is of particular interest to local officials in Tacoma, which has been working to position itself as a player in the tech industry with mixed results. Mayor Marilyn Strickland was on hand at the Wednesday’s press conference to discuss the need for public-private partnerships in the sector and to talk about the state of the industry locally. One thing that should make the mayor smile: Lane said that Infoblox’s participation in the initiative signals a long-term interest in Tacoma.
“We’re not here just to test the market,” Lane said. “We know the market. We know that this industry is growing tremendously. This isn’t about us just checking out Tacoma and planting a few people there to see how it goes … This is an investment here.”