A Top Tech City, But Austin Needs More STEM Workers
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Like other tech hotspots in the U.S., it is that demand for talent that has technology companies in Austin focused on near- and long-term improvements to the local talent pipeline. According to the Technology Economic Impact Report, nearly 80 percent of all Austin-based tech CEOs claim it is “somewhat” or “very” difficult to find local employees with the qualifications to fulfill these positions. “Fulfilling our need for talent is our number one concern,” says Susanne Bowen, CEO of PeopleAdmin and Chair of the ATC Community Foundation. “Ideally, we would hire locally. But there isn’t an educated, experienced workforce that is prepared to jump directly into these tech positions.”
Difficulty in recruiting, attracting, and retaining talent is the biggest challenge facing Austin’s technology sector right now—particularly in the fields of engineering services, computer manufacturing, and programming. Another key point revealed by the technology report is the need for educational institutions to invest in STEM-based education, or specifically in science, technology, engineering, and math. It’s imperative to the survival of Austin’s tech sector that STEM programs are available on both the high school and university levels. In order to cultivate a workforce prepared to join a growing market, STEM programs must be thoughtfully curated by educators, parents, and tech business leaders, while remaining flexible to meet evolving industry requirements.
The timing of this is critical. By 2017, it is estimated one out of every five technology-based jobs in Texas will be based in the Austin metro area. Without an abundance of technical talent, Austin may see the growth, health, and sustainability of the local tech sector limited and the economy greatly impeded.
It is not enough to simply support industry needs. Austin’s tech sector must also be an active partner in the local community. Establishing connections outside of the technology industry is critical to its success. While an educated talent pipeline is the most important factor, one cannot discount the importance of the city’s ability to attract and retain new folks. Establishing industry support in regional economic development projects will foster an important leadership role and allows the tech industry to guide Austin’s growth.
There is no doubt that Austin is fast becoming the model for a healthy and sustainable tech ecosystem. But with that moniker comes growing pains that only preparation and some of that famous Texas ingenuity can ease. An active and engaged tech community can ensure that the future workforce is educated accordingly, and that the city itself has an infrastructure in place to support this burgeoning community of innovators.