A great deal has been written in recent months about the rapidly growing demand for data scientists and data professionals of all types.

The hiring demand for data experts is not expected to abate any time soon, but a new study finds that one of the largest challenges to tech training in general is one that data analysts can certainly appreciate – a lack of data.

Released this week by JPMorgan Chase, the report concludes that there is great uncertainly over how well IT training programs are meeting employer needs. It attempts to “look past the hype of the tech worker boom by charting the growth of and challenges facing tech training programs and evaluating what efforts work best.”

The report, “Tech Jobs for All? Exploring the Promise and Pitfalls of Technology Training in the United States,” is a comprehensive look at programs designed to teach IT skills, from apprenticeships to online courses to boot camps. It looks at skills needed by data analysts and data scientists, programmers and developers, network and systems administrators, and more.

According to the firm, the report is part of JPMorgan Chase’s $250 million, five-year New Skills at Work initiative. That project aims “to address the mismatch between employer needs and the skills of job seekers.” The report is the first resource of its kind to classify and offer accessible information on what types of IT training programs exist, the different talent development needs these programs seek to meet and lessons from the tech training field, the study authors note.

“There’s a presumption that anyone can have a technology job, but there is ongoing uncertainty over whether tech training programs are successfully creating a skilled workforce that meets employers’ needs,” says Chauncy Lennon, Head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase.

“The only way we’re going to know if they’re working is to ground claims of success in data, which is an ongoing challenge as more training programs continue to be developed. This report identifies the challenges, including the need for better data, to ensure rapidly developing training programs provide trainees with the skills to succeed,” Lennon notes.

The Growing Tech Skills Gap

According to the study, there are currently half a million technology jobs open and nearly two million similar new jobs are expected to be created in the next decade. Several recent jobs studies have confirmed that the two fastest growth areas in terms of demand are in data analytics and management and in information security.

The report “reveals that the rapidly growing and quickly evolving tech training field faces unique obstacles for developing the skilled and diverse workforce required to meet a growing need in our economy. Drawing on some of the first research to look beyond the hype surrounding the boom in tech hiring, the report identifies real challenges in tech training, including inconsistent reporting and a shortage of data to measure the outcomes of training programs.”

Tech Training Challenges

In addition to the problems faced by traditional workforce development programs, such as strong employer connections, the report finds tech training programs face exclusive and exacerbated challenges. Citing the report findings, these unique challenges include:

Lack of Data for Evaluation

“The relative newness of these training programs means there is little or no data, or standards for reporting it, for employers, prospective participants or funders to know what programs or methods are successful. The data most training programs release do not show whether graduates take jobs in the field or whether they are still employed several years later.”

Rigid Hiring Requirements

“While the increasing consensus is that a college degree is not needed for most tech jobs, many companies still require them for job candidates and are slow to change how they evaluates candidates. Despite this, there’s increasing consensus that training can give job seekers the skills they need to succeed.”

Lack of Diversity

“Despite efforts to increase diversity, African-Americans and Latinos are still underrepresented in tech training programs.”

Rapidly Changing Sector Needs

“The fast-developing tech world makes it difficult for programs to predict the needs of companies years, or even months, in advance. The needs of employers or the field in general – can adjust in the time it takes a student to complete a training program. For example, the creation of a new coding language can change market demand.”

As a key component of the “Tech Jobs for All” report, five models of tech training programs are identified and explored in detail, including traditional K-12 and postsecondary education, boot camps, online courses, internships and apprenticeships, and programs that combine many of these methods into a single training program.

Finally, the report offers several best practices and opportunities to help improve the field as a whole:  

New pathways: “Developing new opportunities for more participants to enter tech training jobs by introducing more people to technology as a career or providing people with the skills they need to enter training programs.”

Skills matching: “Working directly with employers to ensure that trainees’ skills correlate directly to employer needs.”

System of new credentials: “Creating innovative tools for programs and participants to clearly signal to employers that they have desired skills, either through certifications, portfolios or standardized curricula.”

Intentional eforts to support diversity: “Making an effort to create or support programs with the goal of including students from disadvantaged or underrepresented communities.”

Creating a hub: “Forming a system for effective communication toward collaboration, ensuring that programs meet actual need, and expand, replicate, and share best practices.”

Institutionalized data collection: “Ensuring that programs collect and report standardized and quality data to better measure and improve the success of individual programs as well as the field as a whole.”

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