Diversity, in every sense of the word, is good for business. Diversification in our regional economy creates economic health and stability while fostering sector growth. When individual businesses embrace diversity, it leads to more ideas being generated, creating innovation and critical problem solving. A great example of that diversity is happening within the tech sector, with the launch of Apprenti Louisiana.
A Diverse Economy
Recently, economic modeling firm Emsi released a report that ranked the Capital Region the eighth most diverse economy in the U.S. Relying on one industry is a lot like placing all your money in one company in the stock market; it has high risk. Diversification of industries allows our region to weather the hard times for any single industry and to sustain a healthy economy. Over the years, the Capital Region has invested significantly in diversification, an action that is no clearer than when looking at our technology sector.
The expansion of “Silicon Bayou,” the region’s budding tech sector, has also driven diversification in the last decade. Much like the regional economy, creating a network of large and small companies that perform different services is vital to sustaining growth. Since the tech boom, the Capital Region has become host to tech giants Electronic Arts and IBM, as well as fostered homegrown software developers and cybersecurity experts like Sparkhound and Trace Security. The diversity of services provided by tech industry companies strengthens the sector overall.
A Diverse Talent Pipeline
Diversification isn’t just a boon to overall economic growth or sector growth. Companies across the Capital Region realize that to innovate and grow, they must recruit and retain diverse talent. So how do we recruit the next generation of diverse tech professionals?
One part of reaching a more diverse talent pool is changing our mindset on training programs and higher education. Increasingly, we are seeing companies change their preferences for hiring only four-year university graduates to focus on more diverse recruiting and training programs. Like much of the nation, the Capital Region has a renewed focus on apprenticeships and experiential learning for job training. One reason for this change is the different skills that are now required for many career opportunities within the tech sector. While tech roles have traditionally been inward facing, the industry has transitioned to more client-based interactions, which require skills in business development and customer service, putting diversity of the workforce at center-stage.
A Diverse Training Program
The Capital Region has led the implementation of innovative training with the launch of Apprenti Louisiana, the first registered tech apprenticeship program in the state. The program is part of the national affiliate, Apprenti, which has had success in training apprentices for national names like Microsoft and Amazon.
Apprenticeships provide vital benefits to both candidates and employers. On average, apprenticeships reach a diverse pool of applicants. Apprenticeships are easier for candidates who want to make a change mid-career or who choose an alternate form of post-secondary education. These training programs allow companies to directly train the candidate they want while providing the apprentice a stable income and a leg up on landing a permanent job.
Through this training program, apprentices will earn certifications necessary for a career in cybersecurity, software development, or system administration while also engaging in a year of paid, on-the-job training with one of the program’s hiring partners. Apprenti Louisiana will focus on recruiting a diverse candidate pool by working with community partners such as the office of veteran affairs, United Way and EmployBR. The national program has been recognized for its strong emphasis on recruiting veterans, women, and people of color to participate, who will be a primary focus in the first cohort of Capital Region apprentices.
Diversity is key to economic success in our area. One way we can ensure that success is by training people from all walks of life for high-demand, high-growth careers. Opening the doors of opportunity for all Capital Region residents with innovative, targeted training programs will not only grow our region, but also provide a better quality of life for years to come.
As the policy and research project manager, Ethan is the staff lead for education and workforce development focusing on cultivating the Capital Region’s talent through STEM learning and aligning workforce development systems to meet business needs.