Corporate partnerships critical to closing skills gap

Often, politicians speak about adding jobs to their districts. Because of this many people do not realize there are a record number of unfilled jobs across America right now.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were 6.1 million unfilled jobs across the nation last month, only slightly less than the 6.2 million unemployed Americans who are looking for jobs.

Many of those jobs have gone unfilled for years, because they require technical skills that job seekers don’t have. According to the National Federation of Independent Business, nearly half of all small businesses reported that they couldn’t find qualified applicants to fill job openings, and the Manufacturing Institute found that nearly 60 percent of the American manufacturing jobs they expect to open over the next decade will be left vacant if nothing is done to address this issue.

NPower has taken this issue head-on and is working to ensure young adults from underserved communities have the skills needed to launch digital careers. Since their expansion into the St. Louis region, they have offered free IT training programs to teach 18- to 25-year-old adults the basic tech skills needed for entry-level IT jobs.

NPower’s program starts with 15 weeks of in-class instruction, anchored in skills that ensure students gain the expertise needed to earn the CompTIA A+ Certification, an industry-recognized certification critical for getting a job in the IT sector. Students learn foundational skills in the areas of computer hardware, software and networking.

The course also includes soft skills training including creative problem solving, conflict resolution, collaborative teamwork, resiliency and developing a growth mindset. These additional skills set NPower students apart from those with a traditional college curriculum.

Each week, IT professionals donate their time to provide career guidance so that students can better understand the various career paths that exist. Once they complete that, students are then placed in a 7-week paid internship with local NPower partners, which include many St. Louis businesses.

Thanks in part to the help they receive from Boeing, NPower is likely to continue to grow in the new year. This year, NPower will begin to offer free advanced IT courses in cybersecurity, coding and other in-demand fields, and is expected to enroll at least 100 students.

Teaching Americans these skills not only boosts the economy and ensures that American companies can find qualified employees, but also empowers those students with the knowledge needed to get ahead in the 21st century economy.

It is partnerships like the one NPower and Boeing share that will be the key to closing the skills gap here in Missouri and around the nation.

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