As concern grows over the shortage of qualified IT workers, companies are stepping up initiatives to find candidates to fill open jobs. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), a nonprofit organization based in Arlington, Virginia, has developed a program to create more job opportunities for minority students to help companies overcome this worker shortage.

The DOI Program

The ITAA and some of the leading technology companies in the United States, including Lucent Technologies, and Covad Communications, sponsor the Digital Opportunity Initiative (DOI). MCI WorldCom and Capital One fund the DOI program.

DOI was created in response to the IT worker shortage, and in particular, the lack of minorities in the IT work force. It’s a way to reach minority students and make them aware of the opportunities in the IT field, says Darlene VanEvery, senior program manager for ITAA. The DOI is composed of two parts:

  • An Internship program
  • An educational outreach program (still under development)

The ITAA serves as a link between minority students seeking IT experience and companies looking for IT talent.

Internship Program and Goals

Students submit their resumes to the DOI Web site, and employers search the site for qualified students to participate in their paid internship programs.

Internships offer benefits for both sides, says VanEvery — the company gets talented workers for less money than they’d pay a full-time employee, and students learn technologies and soft skills needed for future employment demands. Often, students end up accepting full-time positions with the companies that initially offered them internships. It gives both the companies and students an opportunity to observe each other and determine if they would make a good match on a long-term basis. The ITAA hopes the programs will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Promote a diverse work force to include additional minority groups, currently representing only a small percentage in IT, when compared with their presence in the general work force.
  • Provide supervised work experience for students to develop and enhance IT skills.
  • Help students build expertise, proficiency and confidence in applying IT skills to real work situations.
  • Develop stronger interactions between students and IT employers.
  • Supply IT employers with a pipeline of future skilled IT workers to meet the growing demand for a qualified work force.

To be eligible for the DOI program, applicants must:

  • Possess a minority student classification
  • Enroll in an accredited two- or four-year institution
  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Aspire to gain work experience in the IT industry

Outreach Program

The Outreach initiative is still in development, but ITAA plans to organize a “think tank of movers and shakers in the IT industry,” says VanEvery. The group will focus on filling the skills gap by linking companies, as well as educational and government institutions, with a qualified, but inexperienced, talent pool capable of meeting IT demands.

Their goals are to:

  • Increase industry awareness of the untapped resource of minority students, who have the potential of being good IT workers and reducing the number of open IT positions.
  • Inform school counselors of the available opportunities for IT students and remove any limited judgments as to who could qualify for jobs in the technology field.
  • Acquaint students as soon as possible with opportunities to prepare them for technology careers.

Filling in the Gaps

Minorities are under-represented in most technical fields, leaving employers with a large pool of latent, untapped IT candidates. As U.S. companies scramble to fill more than a million technology jobs, organizations like DOI are stepping forward to help them find and train those potential employees.

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