Inspiring Success

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March 1, 2016

Building the IT Worker Pipeline in the Twin Cities

By Sue Wallace

What will the IT workforce look like in 10 years? What type of people is the industry going to recruit to fill the workforce and how are we going to get them to say “yes” to an IT career?

The population is aging, and pretty soon Millenials will greatly outweigh the number of Baby Boomers on the IT payroll. In just six years, Millenials will be more than 50 percent of the workforce, according to CompTIA market research. How are we going to entice those Millenials to get into IT careers?

In Minnesota, we’re particularly concerned about how we attract more IT businesses to the state and how we can make sure we have enough skilled workers to fill IT jobs. Currently Minnesota ranks 17th in terms of the states with the most IT workers, according to CompTIA market research.

From an employer’s perspective, it’s a tight job market, especially in the Twin Cities. Our unemployment is much lower than the national average. Then add on that unemployment for computer-related jobs is nearly half the national unemployment rate, and it makes finding new tech workers exceedingly difficult.

The need for new tech workers continues to grow. Last year, the number of open IT jobs posted skyrocketed by 62 percent nationally. Some people think that IT jobs are going overseas, but the stats are clear. There is still a rapid increase in the number of IT jobs open in the U.S. Last year, we saw 3.6 million IT jobs posted online, according to research firm Burning Glass.

In the Twin Cities, the rise in open IT jobs was less than the national average, but still significant. In the 4th quarter alone last year, 47 percent more open IT jobs were posted. Plus for entry-level IT jobs, in particular computer user support specialists, the job postings rose by 109 percent.

Employers are competing with some big names to get the IT workers that are available for new positions. UnitedHealth Group posted more than a thousand IT job openings last quarter alone. Most IT jobs within the Twin Cities aren’t based in IT companies. IT workers are needed in all industries from insurance and healthcare to educational services and retailing.

Across the U.S., there are more than 5 million IT workers already. And while many in the media and general public assume that most of those jobs are in coding, really 59 percent of all IT workers are in tech hardware and services-related jobs. To recruit new tech workers, we need to make sure people are getting an education in various aspects of IT, as not all IT jobs require coding skills.

So where are we going to find these new tech workers? We’re going to need to build our own pipelines. In Minneapolis, we’ve been lucky to have a progressive mayor who’s focused on the issue. Mayor Betsy Hodges started the Minneapolis TechHire Initiative in early 2015 with multiple partners coming together: the City of Minneapolis, PRIME Digital Academy, the Software Guild, Creating IT Futures Foundation and 60 regional employers. Today, more than 120 employers work with Minneapolis TechHire partners to hire program graduates. Together we want to close the high tech workforce skills gap by building a path for diverse workers to access training, support and tech jobs across the Greater Minneapolis Region.

Our IT-Ready program is happy to be a part of the TechHire Initiative. Since 2012, we’re already graduating more than students in the Twin Cities. Our stats are some of the highest of any workforce development program: 91 percent of students graduate, 88 percent of certified graduates are placed in new IT jobs, and 88 percent still employed after one year. We work with more than 60 employers throughout the Twin Cities to place graduates into jobs and help them fill their tech worker pipelines.

Look for my next blog which features executives from IBM, MN.IT and Fairview Health Services on how they’re working with schools, governments and non-profits like ours to build their own tech worker pipelines.

Want to gather more stats on the IT workforce trend in the Twin Cities? See my recent presentation at the TechCities Conference at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.