The Opportunity Gap and its $160 Billion Impact

Bernadette Margolius, Head of Partnerships, Learn
Bernadette Margolius

April 27, 2023


We live in a tech centered world. So much so, that our future is quite dependent on humans who are able to build, manage, and create new tech solutions. Almost every company is reliant on technology to function. It makes sense then that there are so many tech jobs available (i.e. software developers,  IT managers, analysts, data scientists, UX designers, to name a few). Unfortunately, we’re seeing companies struggle to fill these roles.  In fact, it’s been over a decade of organizations feeling the pains of a tech talent shortage. 

Traditionally, corporations focus on hosting competitive college internships and providing lucrative job offers to attract talent. However, we haven’t seen this approach close the gap in talent.

The problem is persisting. And the recruitment approach to fix the problem has not changed. Was it Einstein that defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? The current market signals point to on-going challenges… 

  • “The United States, currently the world’s leading technology market, can expect to lose out on $162.25 billion by 2030 due to sector skills shortages. These talent deficits may imperil America’s status as the global tech center.” [Korn Ferry]
  • “Statistics have shown that in the U.S. there are five jobs for every one software developer.” [Forbes]
  • “Over 44% of well-known organizations expect a significant talent gap in the next five years. Right now, there are only 65 potential candidates for every 100 new job openings.” [McKinsey & Company & Bridge Teams]

For the greater half of a decade, the Learn team at Giant Machines, has been fully immersed in doing everything we can to grow and diversify the tech field. In this pursuit, we’ve partnered with dozens of organizations of all shapes, sizes, legal entities, and industries. And I believe we’ve developed a strong grasp of why the needle hasn’t moved (yet).

It comes down to this: Recruitment teams are investing their efforts in the wrong place.

We have to shift the focus from internships to pre-career tech exposure programs. 

If recruitment teams believe that college internships are the start to their tech talent pipelines, they’ve already lost. The problems within the job market start years before a candidate is even thinking about which internship to apply for. We need to be creating more opportunities for students to explore computer science (CS) while they are teenagers. 

Currently, only about 50% of US high schools offer computer science education opportunities. Unfortunately, the majority of those high schools are in more affluent school districts, which disproportionately caters to white students. This means two things: 

  1. Our public schools are missing the chance to introduce half of the next generation to one of the most lucrative and stable fields, that desperately needs more talent. 
  2. Our current system is giving white students a leg up in entering the tech field, a field that is already lacking diverse representation. 

The ties between exposure and interest in coding are already documented. Access to computer science education matters. Education Week reported that 68% of kids who are at schools that teach computer science say they are interested in the topic. For students at schools without coding classes, only 49% are interested.

This gap is extremely pronounced for students from low-income families. A Gallup report from 2021 found that for students whose families earn less than $48,000 annually, 59% of students are interested in learning, but only 37% have the opportunity to. It’s also important to note that about 20% of families living in poverty in the US are Black, compared to 8% who are white. In summary, the current model is that white privilege equals exposure to computer science career paths.  

Not surprisingly, the gap only grows as students progress through their schooling. The percentage of women and Black students who graduate college as computer science majors are actually decreasing. While women make up the majority of college students, they only earned 20% of the computer science degrees awarded. In a ten year study from 2008-2018, the percentage of Black students who earned computer science degrees dropped from 11% to 8%. Something dramatic needs to change. 

There’s a shortage of trained workers, not a shortage of students that would thrive in technical roles. There needs to be a long term investment in a student’s computer science journey if we want to see sustainable change in the market.

One opportunity isn’t enough. 

Early CS exposure programs are crucial to fixing the tech talent gap, but they aren’t the sole solution. These programs need to be part of a pipeline that creates space for students to nurture their interests…. again, and again, and again. The goal should be to create a series of opportunities that will deepen understanding and confidence in a field that is historically exclusive and intimidating. 

For example, having a single pre-career CS exposure program for students in their senior year of high school is wonderful. However, if they don’t have any additional opportunities to explore CS again, they probably won’t be ready to apply to a college engineering internship, three years later. If companies build a recruitment pipeline filled with mentorship opportunities, additional immersive training programs, newsletters, and/or office hours, students will be more likely to stay engaged and interested in applying for more opportunities with the company that has invested in supporting their CS journey.

Always have an eye towards equity. 

If you bring Black and Hispanic talent, and women and non-binary folks, into a culture that’s been created by a majority of white men, there are innately going to be tensions, pressures, and misunderstanding. More than half of Black developers (57%) said that racial inequality occurs frequently or very frequently in the tech industry. About 60% of women also reported the same. 

There’s a strong correlation between early exposure programs and underrepresented students in tech, and there’s more of a case than ever before for companies to be cognizant of the environment that these students are entering into. 

We often hear from organizations who are passionate and excited about tackling internal culture shifts to create safer work environments and inclusive spaces. But, it can be overwhelming to think about where to begin. 

At Giant Machines, we can help you identify and build those next steps. For example: creating opportunities for underrepresented folks to step into leadership roles, strengthening your anti-discrimination policies, developing mandatory DEI trainings, or creating mentorship opportunities. Don’t hesitate to reach out and set up a conversation to discuss what would make the most sense for your company or program. 

There are opportunities at every stage. 

Recruitment teams need to focus on creating opportunities. For young students, before college, during college, and then once they are a part of a technical team. The long-term investment in opportunity development will change the strength and size of the tech talent pool. 

Giant Machines and our Pre Career partners have been working over the last eight years to do our part to shrink the opportunity gap. We have started to make a meaningful impact by educating over 4,000 students in computer science skills and are projected to work with 1,300 more this summer. Our future is bright and we are dedicated to bridging the gap one student at a time.

About the author

Bernadette Margolius, Head of Partnerships, Learn
Bernadette Margolius

Head of Partnerships, Learn


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