From the Director: Cultivating Talent for the Future Tech Workforce

March 9, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill

Ryan Touhill

One of the biggest pain points businesses continue to experience is finding skilled workers to fill open positions. In a recent survey of Northern Virginia businesses, the Northern Virginia Community College and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce found that 71% of respondents reported that it was been more difficult to fill job openings in 2022 than in the prior year. Respondents noted that primary barriers to hiring continue to be the overall shortage of interested and available candidates and skilled workers. This challenge is even more pronounced in the tech industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the shortage of tech talent nationwide will exceed 1.2 million within just a few years. With Arlington’s high concentration of technology companies and tech jobs, AED started to address the tech talent gap through a creative partnership and program that aims to increase the number of home-grown skilled tech workers. 

The Arlington TALENT Pilot Program (TALENT) is an innovative new partnership between Arlington Economic Development and Exelaration, one of the leading tech and engineering internship providers in the nation. TALENT is a work-based learning program that helps individuals who possess an interest and aptitude in tech but lack the formal education and job experience, gain skills and experience in software development. During a 20-week specialized on-the-job paid training program, TALENT learners work directly with trained software developers on client projects. At the conclusion of the program, they’re ready to step into tech jobs with any of Arlington’s leading companies. 

TALENT, launched in Summer 2022, is funded in part through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. After a successful first cohort in late 2022, the second started in January. Each of the 10 learners is an Arlingtonian hoping to transition his/her career, and the results so far have been nothing less than inspiring. Because TALENT is apprenticeship-style program, participants are paid while they learn. This means many of our learners were able to quit previously lower paying jobs in the service industry to focus on their work-based training full-time. This has provided them not only with a pathway to advance their careers in tech but has also brought stability to their lives and families. It is exciting to watch these newly minted tech professionals blossom and forge new careers.  

With TALENT, we have proven how a work-based learning model can increase the number of qualified tech professionals in Arlington while also reducing barriers to hiring talent. But, to make this pilot program permanent, we need engagement from Arlington-based companies. If you company is struggling to find skilled and experience tech talent, I encourage you to connect with us. Let’s work together to solve one of our biggest problems and showcase that our future workforce is already right here in Arlington.