Utah’s tech industry averaged 3.6 percent job growth per year from 2007 to 2017, a growth rate that was more than double that of the industry on a national level. How are we going to keep up?  Economic Development Workforce Development Manager Jake Maxwell offers this latest blog on training for the skills and knowledge that our Salt Lake City tech industry needs. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback.

As I watch to see how the former Utah Tech Council, now part of Silicon Slopes, will pull off a new Tech Apprenticeship model and how long it will take, I am both eager and skeptical with our training climate in Utah. Silicon Slopes has partnered with Apprenti, an official model in Washington that has seen broad success. However Washington has consolidated stakeholders, set very ambitious goals for K-12 and for adult learners and has delivered on these goals. I look forward to see how Apprenti finds its way through, what I see as, a fairly disjointed array of talent solutions in Utah.

Recently Silicon Slopes sponsored an event to discuss the state of tech talent in Utah. They held a panel discussion with Jeff Weber, EVP of People and Places at Instructure, Kat Kennedy, Chief Product Officer at Degreed, Emmy Southworth, Senior Product Manager at Lendio. They discussed the following issues:

  • Besides technical talent, it is hard to find a mix of hard and soft skills. Part of this includes the problem of advancing an engineer into management.
  • They find it difficult to find technical leadership and not everyone has the aptitude to develop managerial skills.
  • They find enabling people to scale in their career is important for retention
  • Remote work is becoming more appealing because it expands reach of candidates, but it doesn’t fit that dynamic tech workplace floorplate.
  • They find working remotely is better for mid-senior positions as entry level need more guidance, structure and mentorship.
  • Panelists find they don’t have to work hard to recruit companies to Utah, often employees come to them looking to leave the high cost of living in San Francisco and traffic.
  • Most panelists agree that boot camps that only teach 12 weeks might successfully teach a coding language but cannot teach the backbone of computer science which is what will matter moving on in their career. They think boot camps are over-priced.

Here are a few of my impressions from the discussion that highlight the disjointed talent delivery system in Utah I mentioned earlier:

  • Bootcamps do not accelerate the learning of core credentials to do the work. They create more interest and general knowledge which should parlay into a more accelerated and advanced credentialing system.
  • Graduates from our accredited programs do not have the full breadth of skills. Universities like WGU are achieving this with their competency based, highly industry informed learning methodology, however our flagship Universities are a bit behind.
  • We don’t have enough talent in Utah. This is no surprise, we don’t have enough tech talent in the country, but we need to figure out to keep local graduates here and there is a clear gulf between credentials that are needed to do the job, and what our local creative solutions are trying to solve for, IE Talent Ready Utah, Bootcamps, Articulation Agreements between colleges.

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My question is, does Apprenti have the landscape to succeed in Utah? I truly hope they do, but I think of the following quote by Russell Ackoff as I think of the delivery of solutions to this problem:

“Analytical thinking assumes we can study the performance and problems of a system by understanding the performance and problems of each part of the system — how the parts act separately. Systems thinking is the opposite of analytical thinking. It assumes that to understand the performance and problems within a system, we must study how the parts interact, never on how the parts act separately.”