Tech Talent Shortage, One of this Year’s Major Storylines, Illustrated in National Study by Job-Search Site Dice

5/23/11Follow @curtwoodward

If you want another bit of evidence that the technology job market is really competitive, job-search site Dice is out with a new study that ranks states according to their estimated shortage of new tech workers. Xconomy locations, which align with the top innovation clusters nationally, are well represented atop the list for having the greatest shortages: California ranks first, New York fourth, Massachusetts fifth and Washington seventh.

At the other end of the spectrum is Michigan, which ranked 49th—but that isn’t a great distinction either, since it would mean there’s a surplus of grads in computer-related fields who can’t find jobs. Ideally, a state would probably want to be right around the middle of these rankings, meaning the supply and demand are reasonably well-aligned. Some examples: New Hampshire, Vermont, Montana, Idaho and the Dakotas.

Here in Washington state, where the innovation community is growing both domestically and with imports from the San Francisco Bay Area, the talent shortage is a topic of constant conversation. We covered the tech job crunch a few months back with this in-depth piece, and University of Washington computer science chairman Ed Lazowska recently weighed in with this sharp guest column detailing the situation.

To get its rankings, Dice compared a one-day snapshot of tech-related job openings to the number of “workplace-ready computer information and computer science grads” from 2009 (I presume that’s the most recent year for which stats were available). I have a fair amount of experience with statistics, polling and number-crunching studies as a reporter, and the different time elements in this methodology seemed a bit odd to me. But the conclusions are certainly backed up by the things we’ve been hearing virtually nonstop from business leaders hungry for talent.

The Dice report collects a lot of that anecdotal evidence by talking to professors, programmers, entrepreneurs, and investors around the country. Matt McIlwain of Seattle’s Madrona Venture Group highlighted the pressure being applied to this area’s talent competition by the trend of California companies establishing Seattle-area offices and snapping up people—something we just saw again today with Google’s acquisition of new startup Sparkbuy.

Dice also interviewed Karl Triebes, the chief technology officer for Seattle-based F5 Networks, which has an interesting perspective as a company with offices around the country.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in hiring … especially in the Seattle and San Jose markets where F5 has a large presence and does a lot of hiring ourselves,” Triebes told Dice. “Most tech companies were slow to resume hiring in 2009 when the recession ended, but by mid 2010 the job market (for software engineers in particular) had picked up significantly, and is now very competitive.”

Seattle-based Point Inside, which makes interactive maps of interior spaces like malls and airports, also is featured. Engineering vice president Keane Watterson told Dice that Point Inside has trouble finding the most creative engineers at a price it can match. “We’ve had positions open for months at a time for lack of a candidate we could afford with the skills and aptitude for our domain,” Watterson said.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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