The labor market for tech talent is incredibly tight. Job postings for technology positions were up 30 percent year over year in Q4 of 2015, and everyone is talking about the shortage of skilled IT workers. The nuance of the channel provides an extra challenge when it comes to finding new blood. Simply trying to explain what the channel is and does can be difficult even for seasoned professionals; it’s even more difficult to convey it to millennials looking to start a career in IT.

Luckily, several IT vendors and distributors have adopted a bottom-up approach to fostering and selecting the next generation of channel experts by implementing programs and competitions meant to teach students the real world skills they need to compete in the channel. Avnet (AVT) is one of the channel companies who has taken the lead in helping high school and college students learn more about our industry.

This past weekend, Avnet held the 11th annual Avnet Tech Games at the University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona, where several hundred students from a dozen Arizona community colleges and universities faced off in a series of games designed to test their practical IT skills in real world scenarios. The competition, which awarded more than $33,000 in scholarships and grants to the winning students and faculty advisors, is an example of how companies in the channel can and should be doing more to help educate the next generation of IT professionals.

“I feel like it gives a better line of site to these students who don’t choose the normal major university path of coursework in terms of their career advancement,” said Phillip Privett, vice president of Cisco Solutions at Avnet.

While the Avnet Tech Games is among the most well known STEM events in the channel community, there are many other vendors and companies who also place an emphasis on helping young men and women obtain jobs in the sciences and IT. Intel, for example, holds an annual Intel Science Talent Search each year as part of the Society for Science & the Public to highlight the best and brightest high school students in the nation. And on a more local level, nonprofit organizations like the Tyke Foundation help send elementary and middle school students in low income and underserved communities to STEM summer camps.

The US Department of Commerce said STEM occupations are growing at a rate of 17 percent, compared to job growth rates in other fields of 9.8 percent. If you want to have skilled IT workers in your office, it might be time to start investing in your future employees by supporting a local STEM program in your community. After all, you never know where the next IT channel superstar could come from.