Amazon officially opened its second headquarters in Arlington, Virginia on June 15. The region was selected in part due to its workforce (ranked #1 tech talent pipeline by Business Facilities and #3 tech market in the U.S. by CBRE), but how does Arlington continue to attract and retain talent that keep companies like Amazon coming back to the region for more? The answer: a talent pool that continues to grow thanks to innovative talent programs and investments in STEM, $2 billion to be exact, to ensure the best and brightest minds are being cultivated in Arlington.
Arlington is centrally located inside the third largest tech talent pool in the nation; the region’s workers offer employers a plethora of specialized skills acquired at the nation’s top universities. And with Virginia’s tech talent investment plan, that workforce is constantly growing. It all adds up to top tech talent ready for the innovation of the future. For example, in 2018, the state launched an unprecedented, state-wide $1.1 billion performance-based Tech Talent Investment Program, which ultimately became the centerpiece of Virginia’s successful Amazon HQ2 bid. Through Virginia’s Tech Talent Investment Program, more than a dozen higher education institutions across Virginia will collectively produce 32,000 graduates in computer science and related fields, more than doubling the number of grads each year.
Knowing that these graduates are the future of their workforce, higher education is a key component making up the fabric of Arlington; the metro is home to more than 60 colleges and universities, including Georgetown University and Johns Hopkins University. Universities are getting creative training talent: George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College partnered with Amazon for the AmazonNext x CodePath workforce course where they will engage with real-world software topics and practice technical interviewing. Virginia Tech and Amazon are partnering to advance research and innovation in artificial intelligence and machine learning. The region also unveiled it Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), bringing together 42 higher education institutions, $114.5M total sponsored programs and over 320 researchers.
The investment in learning continues to grow even after college with initiatives like the Talent Pilot Program, an innovative work-based learning program focused on software development, that is a full time, paid apprenticeship (beginning at $20/hr). The program administers four weeks of project management training, followed by hands-on client experience on clients ranging from IT modernization to federal contracts. Notably, the program had 90% non-white participants and 50% female participants in its pilot program, and it was just announced that the program will continue in 2023. Eighty percent of pilot participants are employed full time in software development following their graduation from the program.
Furthermore, Arlington has recognized talent doesn’t just start in higher education, but in the K-12 system as well. So, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is offering a new Teacher Professional Development Program starting this summer with the goal of expanding STEM and computing knowledge and teaching practices among elementary and middle school teachers. The program, a component of the Innovation Campus’ K-12 Initiatives, is facilitated in partnership with the Alexandria City Public Schools and supported by a $250,000 educational grant from Amazon.
Arlington’s one-of-a-kind partnerships with D.C. region universities paired with unprecedented investment in Virginia’s tech talent pipeline has set the stage for strong industry growth and workforce development in the years to come.
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