Washington Technology Industry Association looks beyond its home state for talent, programming

WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler. (WTIA Photo)

The Washington Technology Industry Association organization says its priority is to “recruit, develop, and retain technology talent in Washington state.” That isn’t keeping the 40-year-old trade group from looking beyond its home state for its own workforce and offerings.

Much like other tech companies during the pandemic, the WTIA has shifted to a remote-first work policy. It even sold its office building in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood.

The shift has enabled the organization to recruit across the country. The WTIA has made several recent leadership appointments outside the state including:

  • Belinda Nieves, vice president of human resources, based in Nashville, Tenn.
  • Yolanda Chase, chief diversity officer, based in Colorado.

This month WTIA also announced April House as president of HR Benefits, Inc., the WTIA’s for-profit subsidiary. House was most recently the chief administrative officer at San Diego Workforce Partnership and a former vice president at non-profit healthcare provider San Ysidro Health. She will remain based in San Diego.

April House. (WTIA Photo)

WTIA CEO Michael Schutzler described the change to a distributed workforce as “like magic” for recruiting. It’s given the WTIA the ability to “completely divorce geographic considerations” and tap into a broader, more diverse talent pool, said Schutzler, who cited the remote work policies of Twitter and Zillow.

The WTIA currently has 82 full-time employees, 58 of which are in Washington state.

The programming and services WTIA offers is also expanding beyond its home state.

Last year, WTIA escalated its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts by creating an “Anti-racism in Tech Pact” to guide organizations in combating inequity. Following the pact, WTIA established a dedicated DEI office and portal for participating companies.

While most participating companies are in Washington state, the DEI program is open to companies nationwide.

Next month, the organization will host its inaugural DEI Summit and Awards, a virtual event targeting tech companies and leaders nationwide.

WTIA is even going global. This month it launched its fourth Korean Startup Market Accelerator, started a pilot accelerator program with Taiwan Tech Arena, and concluded its third Canadian accelerator.

“Partnering with founders globally enables WTIA to expand its mission to create a thriving tech industry both within and beyond U.S. borders while helping startups to make inroads in local markets in Washington state, where they can explore new growth opportunities,” Nick Ellingson, startup ambassador and director of products at WTIA, said in a statement.

The WTIA’s apprenticeship program Apprenti has been a national organization for 5 years.

WTIA previously expanded beyond Washington state through its Apprenti program. The year-long technology apprenticeship program is currently available in 16 states or metro areas around the country.

WTIA now describes itself as a “consortium” that includes its nonprofit trade association with more than 1,000 local member companies, the nonprofit Apprenti program and the for-profit insurance agency HR Benefits.

Schutzler said he doesn’t view the WTIA as a national organization. Other Washington-based WTIA programs include its blockchain council and accelerator and Founder Cohort program.

“We aim to deliver greater value to current members, while expanding our reach to support more tech companies in Washington state,” Schutzler wrote in WTIA’s annual report for 2020.

According to the report, 88.5% of WTIA’s expenses were for programs and 1.5% was for advocacy. The remaining 10% of expenses were for administration.

WTIA is supported financially by member contributions, service fees from HR Benefits, employers participating in the Apprenti program and grants for Apprenti.

The organization also offers companies business, personal, and health insurance plans, in addition to 401(k). To be a WTIA member, companies are not required to be based in Washington state but the vast majority of members are Washington companies.

WTIA is currently suing Washington state’s Department of Labor & Industries regarding disputed payments for apprenticeship training.

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