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Meet CTA’s New Job-Focused Vice President


What exactly does the role of “vice president of U.S. jobs” entail at CTA?

What exactly does the role of “vice president of U.S. jobs” entail at CTA? For Jennifer Taylor, who will be taking on the brand new position, it’s about doing everything possible to solve the growing hole in the tech workforce. With 260,000 unfilled tech jobs, Taylor see opportunities everywhere to fill them, including early STEM education, stronger community college programs and reaching out to seniors. She’s also looking to CTA’s partnership with the U.S. Tech Vets program, hoping to encourage CTA’s more than 2,200 member companies to tap into the pool of 450,000 available veterans for tech positions. 
 

How did you get involved with tech?

Over the last 20 years, I’ve done all sorts of product and business development, as well as marketing. When I worked at AARP [as vice president of business development], I did a lot of partnership marketing in areas of financial services and retail. Before 2008, on an innovation adoption bell curve – from early adopters to laggards – I would rate myself as a part of the later majority. When I got my first smartphone, I didn’t even scratch the surface of what that phone could do! I never touched any of the settings and I didn’t know any of the apps. 

Then around 2010, I worked with AARP to build out a technology portfolio that provided members with tech products, services, and information that could benefit them. We created a brand new member benefits portfolio that included all sorts of senior-friendly tech offerings, ranging from cellular phones and carriers, to computer hardware and software programs, and tech concierge services. 

Then my eyes really opened up when I was working on a partnership with Intel. We developed an easy-to-use tablet designed for the tech shy and marketed it to older Americans. We quickly saw how technology could help them in their day-to-day life, connecting them with their family and friends, as well as improving how they communicate and get their health information. 

During all of this, I started to come to CES every year, which really introduced me to the whole world of tech. It is exposed me to the innovative products and delivery mechanisms in the tech industry. I was seeing first-hand how technology was improving the lives of people as they age and how companies were marketing to the senior market.

 

Can you talk about CTA’s collaboration with the U.S. Tech Vets?

U.S. Tech Vets is a collaboration with the Northern Virginia Tech Council and a partnership with Monster.com, created through a generous grant from CTA. They developed a jobs platform, similar to an online jobs board, designed to help connect veterans with open positions in the tech sector. It initially started with one of our members, and now we’re at a really exciting point where it will be expanded nationally. Veterans can go on to the platform, type in the military role they had, and it will explain to them how to tell employers ways their skills cross over into the civilian workforce and provide value to their company. It fits perfectly in a resume. 

I want to re-introduce U.S. Tech Vets to our member companies who may not be aware of its benefits. My goal is to see most of CTA’s 2,200 plus members actively engaging with the platform. I’d like for them to post their open positions on the site, but also actively search for candidates on this portal. It’s a great way to address the skills gap we know companies are experiencing and use this program as a go-to resource to find talent. Another thing I would like to see is enabling veteran spouses to also leverage the platform to seek employment in the tech sector. Veteran unemployment is 3.7 percent right now, while veteran spouse unemployment is at 16 percent. 
 

What else is CTA doing to help ensure the workforce is ready for tech-related jobs?

Another huge area of potential are community colleges. In the state of Virginia, 60 percent of college students are in the community college system and other states have similar stats. So how can tech companies tap into or create different educational pathways? Traditional colleges cannot be the only option that ensures workers get the training that companies need so they can be hired. These community colleges are working very closely with major companies, who approach these schools saying they need more, say, cybersecurity experts. The schools are working directly with employers so they can develop curriculum to meet the demands of these businesses. 

Many companies, like Toyota, are also taking a more proactive approach. They’re saying, “We are lacking individuals who have the skills we need, and we need to do something about it.” As companies need more workers with robotics or software skills, they’re creating vocational programs and curriculums in schools near their plants to create a future workforce made from the ground up for exactly what they need. Providing hands-on experience – like through internships – is also helping them give students skills directly related to an applicable field companies want to hire in. 

CTA will also create a membership council with representatives from human resources divisions so they can collectively share their voice about challenges they are experiencing at the workforce level when attracting and retaining high-skilled labor. We want to amplify what they are saying and doing – whether it’s at a government policy level or whether they are creating new education pathways.  We want to hear firsthand what the industry is experiencing. We want to be a leader and a collective voice on the topic of creating a relevant future workforce. 
 

What’s stopping small businesses from being more successful?

I’m seeing a few main reasons. One is the limited purchasing power and access to capital that many smaller businesses have. They are often competing against large companies like the Walmarts of the world. Many smaller companies also can’t offer their workers the same benefits as larger companies or they don’t have the capital to propel them to the next level. Another issue I am reading about more, is that smaller businesses, especially in rural, underserved areas are having difficulty attracting and retaining workers. And for some positions, such as low skilled jobs, many Americans don’t want those jobs. There is also the opioid and substance abuse issue that is a contributing threat to rural business areas. 


What does the term “innovation” mean to you?

It’s about the creation of something new that enhances or replaces something that is ubiquitous in our lives. Innovation can either be an enhancement or a complete replacement. But not only does it need to replace an old way of doing something, it needs to have tremendous value for consumers or businesses. I question, “Is the innovation driving efficiency or driving productivity? Does it increase access to more people? Does it generate better outcomes?” If the answer is yes, then I call that innovation. 
 

What new piece of tech (or tech trend) excites you most?

I am most excited about self-driving trucks. I lost an old friend two years ago when he was hit head on by a semi-truck driver who was texting and driving. The truck was driving northbound and my friend was driving southbound. The truck lost control, crossed over the wide grassy area that divided the two directions of the highway and then entered into the oncoming traffic out of nowhere and slammed into my friend’s SUV. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I want to see safer roads and I want our country to experience a significant reduction in casualties on our highways. Self-driving cars and trucks, and sensors installed on our roads will help this happen. I can’t wait to see it all come to life!

Jeremy Snow

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