Ahead of South by Southwest, President Obama has announced the expansion of the federal initiative to boost high-tech education in America called TechHire.

A year ago, the federal government launched the initiative to bring communities, private industry, educational institutions and local governments together to help better prepare Americans for jobs in the rapidly expanding high tech industry.

As the President prepares to travel to Austin, Texas to visit the South by Southwest festival -- a yearly celebration of entertainers, entrepreneurs and technology -- the White House has announced new steps to expand the TechHire initiative to new communities throughout the country.

Soon in 50 Communities 

The initiative originally launched in March 2015 with 21 communities participating, including New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Jose and Washington, DC. At the time, the White House stated its goal was to expand to more than 40 communities by the end of the year. Now, TechHire is expanding to 50 communities.

TechHire will soon operate in several more big metropolitan areas with large Latino populations, including Atlanta, Miami, Raleigh and Austin, with the same mix of involvement from the private sector, local governments and educational institutions.

TechHire's goal is to help fill the job gap forecasted by Silicon Valley, while giving opportunities to communities and people who have less access to the kind of higher education that the tech industry usually requires.

Addressing the Talent Gap

As Latin Post previously reported, America has about 5 million open jobs, with over 500,000 in the information technology field alone. That sector of the economy is also predicted to expand faster than others in the near future, and the U.S. currently lacks a pool of talent large enough to meet that demand.

For those interested in boosting their career prospects in the industry, it doesn't hurt that the average tech industry salary tends to be 50 percent higher than other private sector jobs in the country.

"When these tech jobs go unfilled, it's a missed opportunity for low-wage workers who could transform their earnings potential with just a little bit of training," said President Obama in his original announcement of the initiative. "And that costs our whole economy in terms of lost wages and productivity."

In the 50 communities where TechHire now operates, local businesses and educational institutions are piloting programs to train workers for the new economy, sometimes in just a few months, through coding bootcamps and vocational programs.

Adjusting Immigration Rules

The White House is also boosting the pool of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent by changing a few immigration regulations. Starting in early May, some international students earning STEM degrees from U.S. universities will be given more time to stay in the country -- an additional 24 months after graduation -- in order to participate in on-the-job training within STEM fields.

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that there are about 34,000 immigrant students participating in the program, known as STEM Optional Practical Training (OPT), which currently allows eligible graduates to stay in the country for 17 months.

Check out the White House's fact sheet here for more details on the expansion of TechHire and see if high tech training programs are coming to your community soon.