Sereyna Wallace, National Placement Director for NPower, Explains Why Tech Needs to Change How It Recruits and Hires New Talent

The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a 33 percent increase in IT, engineering and computer jobs over the next seven years, the fastest employment growth of any industry. Grit Daily spoke with Sereyna Wallace, National Placement Director for the nonprofit tech training organization, NPower, about what companies can do now to remain competitive employers in this continuing tech labor shortage.

The massive, global shortage of qualified tech talent will continue to tighten for years to come. So how can workers take advantage of the demand for their skills? NPower provides free tech training programs to young adults from underserved communities, and connects their graduates with tech companies.

Seryna Wallace shared her insight on why she believes companies will need to change the way they hire and recruit if they want to keep growing.

Grit Daily: Why are there great job opportunities in tech right now?

Sereyna Wallace: The overall need for qualified tech talent was always high in demand, but the pandemic-fueled job market has resulted in employment growth across the tech industry.

A recent NPower report found many of these tech job opportunities can be filled with workers from the service industry. These young adults have the basic skill sets needed to succeed with careers in tech, but they just need the tech fundamentals training to get their foot in the door.

In addition, companies want more diversity in tech, and they’re looking to hire diverse talent. A Bureau of Labor Statistics found that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women are severely underrepresented in tech, making up only 5 percent of tech workers despite the fact that they are 20 percent of the population. This also provides more opportunities for people of color in tech adjacent industries as well.

Grit Daily: How is the overall tech industry changing when it comes to hiring and recruiting tech employees? 

Sereyna Wallace: More than 500 of the nation’s leaders from tech, industry, nonprofit, and education issued a bipartisan letter recently, calling on state governments to update their K-12 curriculum. The letter reinforced why every student in every school must have the opportunity to learn computer science.

The tech labor shortage has also forced companies to reassess the type of worker they hire for tech jobs. Many companies are turning to apprenticeships to find and hire talent according to their needs. AWS and Google are two companies that have partnered with NPower to train their workers on their systems. Under the apprenticeship, NPower trains the young adults on their tech platforms, giving the companies access to tech talent that is more knowledgeable on their systems.

We also just received a $1 million grant from Homeland Security to train veterans and their spouses for free on cyber security. Under these apprenticeship programs, young adults, veterans and their spouses get the tech training certificates in only 6 months, and with no out-of-pocket costs. This is in addition to industry-recognized certifications like the Google IT Support Certificate or the CompTIA A+ & IT Fundamentals, which will allow our graduates to immediately slot into the technology workforce. 

Grit Daily: How does the NPower program prepare young adults and veterans for careers in tech?

Sereyna Wallace: Young adults, veterans and their spouses who go through the NPower programs never pay a dime for their training. It’s covered by grants, corporations, donations and partnerships. So when these students graduate, they’re not starting with debt that may hinder their ability to grow and succeed out of school.

Our statistics show 80 percent of students who enroll in the Tech Fundamentals program graduate, and 85 percent of them land a job after graduation, or continue with their education. Equally as impressive, graduates see an average 361 percent growth in their salaries after graduating.

NPower also offers a mentorship program, NPowerMATCH, as part of our training. Our students are exposed to leaders from the top tech companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, and AWS. Senior-level IT professionals help with post-graduation job placement, as well as professional and personal development.

Grit Daily: How does your tech training differ from the 4-year college or other tech training programs?

Sereyna Wallace: There is an optimal learning environment for every person. There’s no right or wrong way to acquire tech skills because every approach to learning will improve the person. Our program is more geared towards information technology, and young adults who can’t afford to go to college. Our program starts at 16-weeks for the Tech Fundamentals Course. We also have more intensive, similar-length programs for NPower alumni to earn advanced certifications in Cybersecurity and Cloud Computing.

Our students typically face larger barriers to launching tech careers than others. Many of our students are young women of color, mothers, or adults from underserved communities in need of alternative financial and educational resources. We train veterans who served our country and now need to transition to the workforce. These are the people NPower is trying to help, and our program is geared towards.

Grit Daily: How does someone apply?

NPower: We have campuses across the country where young adults ages 18-26, veterans and their spouses can apply for these tech programs. NPower has campuses in Baltimore, Detroit,  Dallas, Newark, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area and St. Louis. These are some of the biggest cities we have identified that have the biggest tech labor shortages. If you’re interested and meet the qualifications, you can apply by clicking here.

Peter Page is the Contributions Editor at Grit Daily. Formerly at Entrepreneur.com, he began his journalism career as a newspaper reporter long before print journalism had even heard of the internet, much less realized it would demolish the industry. The years he worked a police reporter are a big influence on his world view to this day. Page has some degree of expertise in environmental policy, the energy economy, ecosystem dynamics, the anthropology of urban gangs, the workings of civil and criminal courts, politics, the machinations of government, and the art of crystallizing thought in writing.