In March 2015, President Obama launched the TechHire initiative to target job seekers often overlooked by employers due to their nontraditional training, education or experience—particularly veterans, young adults who are not working or in school, the long-term unemployed and candidates who attended some college but didn’t graduate—and connect them with jobs in the tech sector. Northern Virginia, in the midst of a tech boom as evidenced by the growth in the Dulles Technology Corridor, is a prime candidate for the program, and Digital Intelligence Systems, a McLean-based staffing and IT consulting firm, is the latest company to join the White House effort. Cydney Peyton, DISYS’ assistant director of marketing and proposals, spoke to us about the company’s role in TechHire’s efforts in Northern Virginia.
How is DISYS connected to TechHire? Specifically, when partnering with TechHire, what commitments does a company have to the program?
When you agree to be a TechHire partner, the primary commitment [is] agreeing to interview candidates and possibly hiring candidates who come out of the program. It’s offering additional exposure to candidates who have nontraditional education and nontraditional training in the technology field.
You agree to give your corporate perspective and input [on] how the program can function at its best [and how] to make the program most useful for companies that want to hire tech talent.
How is TechHire helping to overcome preconceived notions about the tech industry and careers in the field?
One of the things unique about tech is that there are many ways to work in the field. One of the positions the TechHire program does a lot of training in is what they call a Computer Support Specialist. [The position] relies more on communication and interaction. There are technological fundamentals that you need to understand, [but] a big part of what makes you qualified for the job is how well you can communicate, interact [and] problem-solve and [having] strong critical-thinking skills. [These] skills are transferable either to technology or from technology [and] are just strong employment skills in general.
What industries are increasing tech jobs?
We are seeing a lot of uptake in the transportation space, so rails in Northern Virginia and Virginia in general, [particularly] Amtrak Norfolk Southern [Corporation]. We are seeing a big increase in the finance industry—there’s a big boom both in IT and non-IT. IT would be application developers and testers, but on the non-IT side, we are seeing an increase in need for loan advisers and mortgage advisers.
How does someone develop tech skills necessary to perform these types of jobs?
DISYS itself does not train technology talent, but we find and [connect employees with] companies who need the already seasoned, excellent talent in the field. An initiative like TechHire is taking on the responsibility of the training. It’s specifically aimed at using technology training to close the employment gap, understanding that a lot of employment needs are trending in the direction of technology. They’re taking the lead and figuring out [how to] take people with non-technology skill sets and get them base-level training to be employable to [companies with] tech needs.