What you need to know about the changing US workforce
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated 2,800 landed jobs from Dev Bootcamp. That is the number of program graduates.
Techies. In San Francisco and other tech-heavy markets, that moniker has attained a level of derision that was once reserved for hipsters.
A short list of complaints: Techies drive gentrification, they displace artists, they walk around with their heads buried in their phones. And they're white or Asian but always male. And if you're in charge of filling desks at a tech firm, they are your workforce — if you can woo them with gourmet food and free shuttle busses to work.
Okay, yes, these are gratuitous stereotypes. But despite efforts to diversify the workplace, tech industry demographics have not budged. Yet.
However, for a list of reasons related to everything from customer demands to politics to the evolution of digitization to demand for talent far outstripping supply, there is good reason to believe that those stereotypes are about to expire. Meanwhile, the traditional tech talent hubs — Silicon Valley, New York and Chicago — are seeing some competition from cities across the nation.
"We're seeing graduates going to jobs all over the country," said Cody Leclaire, executive director of careers for Dev Bootcamp. "Today, I heard a few of our graduates went to work in Kansas City."
Dev Bootcamp, which offers courses in six U.S. cities and has graduated 2,800 students since its founding in 2012, is one of more than 100 vocational programs that have emerged across the country.
These programs, which range widely in terms of cost and length, offer specialized training in programming or other skills, such as application development, data science or UX design.
They're blooming because companies are clamoring for tech talent as the traditional pipelines — university computer science programs and sourcing foreign workers with specialized skills — are either insufficient or inaccessible.
Widening the talent search
By 2022, the tech industry will generate 1.3 million new jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Jobs requiring a Master's or post-doctoral degree will account for less than 2% of the jobs, while candidates armed with an associate's degree or some college experience but no degree will have access to 23% of the pie. Though the majority of job descriptions will call for a bachelor's degree, it shows that hiring managers should by no means limit themselves to that main stem of the academic output.
Noting potential changes to H-1B visa program, Mark Ellis, CEO and founder of Liftoff, a mobile app marketing platform provider, said, "we see an excellent opportunity for the larger tech world to train U.S.-based talent in areas beyond engineering." The mobile industry needs more app marketers, but that role that does not require coding knowledge, and Ellis sees hands-on training as a valuable tool for cultivating Liftoff's workforce.
Employers are also developing their own internal bootcamps as well as apprenticeship programs, Anurag Srivastava, vice president with management consultancy Everest Group, notes. The industry is trying to apply lessons it has learned from high turn-over rates among the hot talent it has cultivated thus far, and so it is beginning to invest more in retention.
"I think that CIOs need to change their archaic hiring practices and make investments in junior talent as well as creating pipelines for them to be on-boarded and transitioned into full time employment," said Leclaire.
Srivastava says he's also seeing U.S. firms beginning to leverage alternative sources, "such a tapping into the ex-military pool, setting up centers near military bases."
To that point, in mid-January Amazon joined with the Department of Labor to launch a job training program aimed at getting more veterans into the online retailer's workforce. By 2022, it hopes to hire 25,000 veterans and spouses of military personnel.
Leclaire is happy to report that he's not seeing a "typical" student emerge in Dev Bootcamp classes. They are a range of ages and backgrounds: Some have a college degree but are looking for a career change, while others are coming straight from high school. And 30% are female, a figure that is still not representative of the U.S. populace but is better than the roughly 16% of the current tech workforce that is female.
Fostering loyalty and community
The tech workforce will expand geographically and demographically not just to fill the tech talent gap but because of the changing nature of a what, and where, a tech company is. As most every product or service offered to consumers becomes a connected product, those manufacturers or service providers — whether they make garage door openers in Ohio or sell flowers in Georgia — suddenly also become tech companies.
And while traditional tech hubs may never disappear, Dallas, Kansas City, Atlanta, Phoenix and St. Louis, are part of a long list of U.S. cities that are proving to be fertile ground for the next wave of tech work. Low taxes and great access to outdoor recreation are attracting tech startups to Utah, putting Salt Lake City and its neighboring cities under a new rubric: Silicon Slopes.
Tech companies setting up shop outside New York or San Francisco might find it challenging to recruit talent from those traditional hubs, so they'll need to focus on local community and culture.
Hiring firms should "do a lot around brand building and brand awareness, so people in those areas can associate themselves with something special," Srivastava said. This can help prevent attrition.
If companies do not build a workforce culture and skill base that is representative and is able to amplify what makes a given city special, then "there's no point in actually in building [a workforce in a new place]," Srivastava said. "If you don’t foster this, the benefits of onshoring will be eroded."