White House adds Indianapolis to TechHire initiative

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Indianapolis is among 15 communities the White House has added to its "TechHire" initiative, which aims to get low-skilled workers jobs in the tech economy.

The initiative pairs private employers and not-for-profits with cities and states to help train people through programs such as coding boot camps. Leading the program locally are EmployIndy, which is Marion County’s workforce development board; Eleven Fifty Academy, a not-for-profit immersive coding academy in Carmel; and statewide not-for-profit advocacy group TechPoint.

The three groups intend work with local employers such Interactive Intelligence Group Inc., Angie's List Inc. and Apparatus Inc. to facilitate the training and hiring of 186 technical workers through accelerated and other training programs in 2016, and 560 workers through 2018, the White House said.

No federal money is tied to the distinction, but Indianapolis can apply for federal grants related to the program. EmployIndy said it's in the process of completing a grant application for about $5 million from the U.S. Department of Labor.

"It's no secret that tech is booming in central Indiana," Chelsea Meldrum, EmployIndy's vice president of development, said in written remarks. "This exciting distinction is validation to the great work and partnerships formed to advance opportunities for our residents to earn high-wage, high-demand opportunities in the industry.

The designation could be a tailwind for Indianapolis' rapidly growing tech ecosystem, which has seen a number of software startups, entrepreneurs and investors spawn from corporate mergers, such as marketing-technology firm ExactTarget's $2.5 billion sale to Salesforce.com in 2013.

But these startups—as well as mature companies across all industries—are increasingly hungry for software engineers, user-experience designers and other computer-related jobs. According to analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies, Indianapolis-area employers posted 17,578 tech job openings in 2015. That’s up from 6,993 postings in 2010.

It's unclear how many of those positions were actually filled, but the average salaries for those jobs suggest employers are boosting wages amid increased competition for a limited supply of workers. The average salaries for those posted jobs, according to Burning Glass, jumped from $70,778 in 2010 to $83,419 in 2015.

EmployIndy said the region is estimated to add 51,500 net new tech-enabled jobs by 2025, but current education outputs are slated to only produce half of the needed credentials and degrees to fill those jobs. Those credentials include short-term "up-skilling" through immersive boot camps, as well as bachelor’s and advanced degrees.

Before the TechHire designation, EmployIndy had been operating Employ Up, which is funded by an $8.3 million Department of Labor grant to prepare long-term unemployed and underemployed residents for high-demand science, technology engineering and math, or STEM, jobs in IT and healthcare. It intends to serve 800 residents by 2018.

At the national level, the TechHire expansion comes a year after President Barack Obama announced the program and days before he's scheduled to speak at the South by Southwest technology festival in Austin, Texas. The program boasts about 50 communities today.

The newest communities include two states—Hawaii and Virginia—and 13 cities from Flint, Michigan, to Jackson, Mississippi.

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