Salt Lake City is committed to attracting tech talent. As a City, we are working to provide the amenities today’s tech workforce wants – lower cost of living, high-efficiency public infrastructure, transit options, cultural diversity, and collaboration space (among other things). But we’re living in a state where there are more job openings than people to fill them. Workforce Manager Jake Maxwell offers his latest thoughts on talent recruitment and retention in our latest blog. As always, we welcome your feedback.

After attending the 2019 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit with over 23,000 attendees, I felt the gravity of our growing Utah tech economy. Opinions of the conference aside, it’s no question to anyone who is impacted by workforce challenges that we need to step up production of our tech talent. More importantly, we must improve retention and find ways to better control the turnover cycle.

So whose responsibility is it? Usually, we start at the top with “the government”. Can the government fund something that generates interest in both training into this field and interest in staying in Utah? We’re already on track with a new loan forgiveness program for bachelor degree level talent, a job shadow program, and an established Silicon Slopes community. Is it enough to meet short term demand? Not exactly.  Next, it’s our educational institutions, right? They have an abundance of money to produce a trained workforce. Are they selling Utah as a place to be successful? What is their message to students? What are they measuring as successes and is it as deep as just graduation rates?

The answer, in my opinion, is a difficult one for most. The answer lies with those asking the question. In an age where everything is a consumable product, you need to start developing and selling your product. If you want people to arrive at your business to work, they need to know what is in it for them; salary is not everything.

Let me give some examples to make this less about my opinion. Starting in High School, the largest reported reasons for dropping out are disengagement, boredom, and students not seeing where they will use the information. Kids who enroll in CTE (Career and Technical Education) and get exposure to industry see the value of what they are learning. Graduation rates compared to their respective peers increases by an astonishing margin. The same goes for college. The college system is being disrupted by schools like Udacity who partners with Google and Amazon (and many, many more) to provide fine-tuned micro-credentialing without all the “generals” required by traditional college accreditation.

Industry is figuring this out and those ahead in the race are showing K-12 students, college students, and graduated workforce alike what product they have and why it behooves them to consider working in Utah and for their company. As opposed to battling in the trenches, they’re building new pathways to achieve their talent goals. This includes relevant learning and development opportunities for their employees at every stage of their employment.

Here are some examples. Microsoft has developed an apprentice program– a 16-week immersive program taught by experienced engineers. Goldman Sach’s GSU trains and retrains its employees in a series of professional development programs. Google’s IT Support Professional Certificate partners with local universities. IBM introduced a Digital Skills Academy to local universities in order to train new graduates with skills their clients require. SpaceX, PayPal, and Wells Fargo have employees who moonlight as coding instructors at university-run boot camps across the country. These are all great examples to improve the learning culture within your company, foster communities of practice, and improve your employment brand, all of which help attract fresh tech talent to your organization.

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Is it going to solve all of our hiring challenges?  Not completely. But if there’s a lesson we are all learning is that there is no one answer when it comes to building a strong talent pool. Success requires a multi-pronged approach and consistent backing from the whole community.

Build the right relationships, develop ways to invest in training the people you want, form strong partnerships, and re-invent yourself as the entrepreneur you are if you need to. Use our workforce development resources. Explore new solutions with our education partners. The fourth industrial revolution is upon us and the speed at which things are changing will not wait for those who hoped the problem would be solved by someone else.