Kentucky high school students are learning Swift and Java in a new immersive programming course that can lead to a paid IT apprenticeship. The program, run by a branch of the Louisville, KY-based tech services company Interapt called Interapt Skills, offers students class credit toward graduation, as well as nine credit hours from the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.

At a recent Interapt Skills event in Louisville, KY, I spoke with David Klapaak, director of program management for Interapt, about where the tech talent gaps truly exist in the workforce, and why it’s so important for businesses to train and mentor young people in the field. Here is the transcript of our conversation.

SEE: IT Hiring Kit: Programmer (Tech Pro Research)

Rayome: What challenges do we face in terms of filling the tech talent gap?

Klapaak: The primary ones that I see are filling in gaps where code is aging out, where we’re going to have a lot of code that just basically won’t work anymore and nobody’s doing anything to backfill that. People are going to be faced with an expensive decision. They’re either going to build new code or they’re going to let their solution die and lose income or lose revenue on that.

I’d say the other thing is we are not gearing up our population to be prepared for the onslaught of the Internet of Things. I hate to go back to sort of glib solutions, but we haven’t seen how small these devices will become and how incredibly ubiquitous they’re going to be. We need to have a population of people who can deal with that, and who are able to provide solutions and who are able to repair it, deploy it, learn about it, come back again and do that whole cycle. Everything you see in a software development lifecycle, you’re going to have to see deployed in our regular workforce.

Rayome: What can businesses do to ensure they have enough tech talent in the future?

Klapaak: One of the things we’re not seeing is a very strong mentoring population and program in a lot of businesses. We go to companies, big companies all over, and they simply say they don’t have any way to have a side-by-side learning environment for a student who’s coming out of our program, or a brand new junior developer who just went through our workforce development program.

That’s one thing that businesses could do. They could ramp up their desire to fill the positions they need by training people from the ground up. Training the junior developers. Training high school students to understand their solutions and their problems so that when they graduate high school or get an associate’s degree or get a bachelor’s degree, they would want to come back to that company.

Rayome: What is the most important thing for people in tech to know about Interapt Skills?

Klapaak: I think the most important thing to know about our program is that we can do this in a templated fashion. We can deploy all over the country or all over the world, and that hands-on learning is going to be important. A lot of people want to do nothing but a distributed distance learning or remote learning model. That works, but only for people who are either already familiar with programming and technology, or are motivated enough to learn about it themselves. Very few people will keep their hands on it once they get too frustrated. We need to stop that flow of people out of technology. We need to bring people in by encouraging them, by mentoring them, by showing them ways to find information and solutions.

Programming is no longer a singular activity–it hasn’t been for years and years. People who are coming into it have to be introduced to the community. You have to provide them with solutions that help them learn.