AT&T announced on August 17, local time, that it will expand its IT apprenticeship program to train entry-level talent for federal national security agencies. Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry have joined AT&T’s “Catapult” program, which allows students to receive classified-level contractor security clearances while undergoing training while also gaining IT The industry’s top qualification. The program helps meet talent needs for IT jobs, which are projected to grow twice as fast as the overall U.S. employment rate by 2030, with 11,000 jobs to fill each year in Northern Virginia alone.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the information technology field are expected to grow by more than 10% annually through 2029, and the information security field will grow by 30%. Since President Biden took office, there have been two or three large-scale cybersecurity incidents, which not only exposed the many loopholes in the government’s cybersecurity management, but also highlighted the lack of cybersecurity professionals. National security agencies, including the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Office of Management and Budget, have prioritized strengthening IT and cybersecurity talent development and recruitment . Especially after the administration issued an executive order promoting diversity, OMB reaffirmed its commitment to new talent pipelines for positions such as cloud specialists.
“In the next decade, information technology jobs in our region are projected to grow at an average rate of 1.5 percent per year, the third-highest average for all jobs in the region,” said Steven Partridge, vice president of strategy, research and workforce innovation at Northern Virginia Community College. Times. There are currently more information technology job openings in Northern Virginia than there are people qualified for these critical roles. Building an IT talent pipeline for the Northern Virginia region is critical, and NOVA is proud to partner with AT&T to help us now and former students an innovative opportunity to launch their IT careers.”
“Identifying and hiring qualified information technology talent remains a challenge for federal agencies,” Jill Singer, vice president of defense and national security for AT&T Public Sector and FirstNet, said in the statement. “Especially , national security agencies face challenges such as high-level security clearances and the need for specific IT skills, which may make it more difficult for them to expand their talent base.”
Singer pointed to a recent report from the nonprofit industry association CompTIA that found an average of 850,000 IT staff vacancies per quarter in 2020. According to the report, employment growth in the IT industry is expected to be double that of other industries over the next decade.
The same is true in northern Virginia, according to research by labor market consultancy Chmura Economics. The company forecasts that 11,000 IT jobs need to be filled in the region. The AT&T press release noted that job postings compiled by Burning Glass Technologies demonstrate that many entry-level positions and other positions at federal agencies require advanced security clearances and specialized skills.
Students will be trained at NOVA’s Reston complex and work in person or virtually at AT&T’s Oakton base as part-time AT&T employees.
Security clearances follow standard review procedures for contract personnel and can take two years of training to complete, though students who receive security clearances ahead of time will be working full-time at AT&T — they understand that training must be successfully completed to keep their jobs. AT&T declined to comment on which national security agencies were funding the scrutiny or benefiting from the influx of talent.
Program graduates receive 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in technology, software, and laboratory skills, and have obtained five industry certifications: A+, Network+, Security+, CCNA, and ITIL.
What makes the program unique, Singh says, is on-the-job training and mentoring. It is tailored to help ensure that employees who successfully match skills and expectations come into AT&T. The program will be evaluated annually to determine whether additional training courses or tracks should be added to match multiple contracts and key positions at federal agencies.
AT&T’s Catapult program, launched at Howard County Community College in Maryland in 2019, shares talent development costs with the government, reduces brain drain, lowers the cost of entry-level jobs and limits the need for four-year degrees. NOVA and AT&T will judge the success of the program based on annual participation and completion rates before adjustment or termination.
Interested students can apply to the program between August 26 and September 23 and will receive a response by the end of October, after which classes will begin in January. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, U.S. citizens and Virginia residents, and submit additional credentials during virtual information sessions on Aug. 26, 30, and Sept. 1.