June 20, 2019 Shelley Iocona

3 Ways To Invest In Local Tech Talent and Why It Matters

The shortage of technical talent is all around us. According to recent research by Korn Ferry, the labor-skills shortage in the tech sector is expected to reach 4.3 million workers by 2030. Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported the IT unemployment rate at a 20-year low. Demand is soaring for jobs in data analytics, AI, and other advanced skills. If you find these statistics compelling and agree the future of work is upon us, here are three steps you can take to empower the workforce we rely on for innovation.

Engage in the local tech scene

Gone are the days where there was merit to the idea that top technology talent only wants to live in Silicon Valley. While many cities all over the world are re-positioning themselves as “tech hubs,” here in Orange County, California, we are engaged in a number of initiatives to retain the talent we develop and attract top talent to the area. This not only supports economic growth locally but also showcases the incredible businesses and people that make up the coastal region between Los Angeles and San Diego.

It’s no secret technology is increasing the rate of change in business and that scaling effectively is time-consuming, risky and may lead to short-term losses before generating long-term gains. Despite the challenges, the cost savings incurred by investing in existing talent through training and competitive compensation cannot be ignored. In response, businesses are getting creative and designing ways to keep local talent informed and engaged.

One such initiative, Coded in OC, a nonprofit ON ITS AXIS joined last year, is already making waves in our local community. Coded hosted its first members-only event, “Building Culture, Retaining Talent, and The Lost Art of Internships” earlier this month. EVP Kelly O’Connell facilitated the internship panel, while other members shared strategies for talent acquisition and retention in the tech sector.

This event was a great reminder that engaging locally as businesses, together we are better able to shine a light on the community around us. By proactively identifying tools to leverage the innovation opportunities technological advancements provide, we become invested in local business success and stay on top of trends impacting the businesses in our community.

Contribute to local education programs

As the nature of work continues to change at a rapid pace, there is a widening gap between trained skills and expected job performance. As the trend towards automation and advanced skills in data analytics and AI become more prevalent, students must learn to develop methods to help them better predict where technology is headed in order to prepare themselves to evolve in the workplace.

Employers today are not only looking for hard skills but there is a growing demand for soft skills and the understanding of what it takes to drive innovation. In fact, even a dated study as far back as 2013 by the Association of American Colleges & Universities shared that nearly all employers surveyed (95 percent) say they give hiring preference to college graduates with skills that will enable them to contribute to innovation in the workplace. Although the soft-skills gap has been recognized as a key requirement by employers for over 5 years, it continues to be reported by hiring managers as one of the most pressing growing talent acquisition challenges.

As continuous learning becomes critical to success in the workforce, education and training must extend beyond traditional programs. Skills centered around entrepreneurship, collaborative communication, negotiation, and problem-solving activities such as design thinking workshops (where students learn how to take an idea and work together to make a prototype to test) is becoming foundational to their productivity on the job.

As business operations continue to evolve and the technology stack that drives innovation continues to change, education programs need to evolve to meet the needs of graduates and the organizations who will employ them. Who better to contribute to these programs than business leaders in the local community?

Invest locally

Just as there is no longer an isolated central location for tech employment, technology itself has expanded its circle of impact. There is no industry that is exempt from technical innovation. However, just because there is a role for technology to play in streamlining business process and amplifying business opportunity, this doesn’t mean that the local business ecosystem is evolving to embrace that opportunity.

In order for technical talent to contribute and help local economies rise, local industries need to exist and thrive. In communities with a booming local economy, there is a collective acceptance of technology as core to business operations. In these communities, anytime a company expands its footprint and opens a new office in a new community, we are investing in technical talent.

A key way to swiftly infuse innovation for positive change into a local community is to develop a strong, diverse, and inclusive ecosystem startup accelerators, innovation labs and venture capital funds.

The concept of venture funding as an essential generator of both innovation and economic opportunity is not new. Not only are companies funded by venture capital a major part of the U.S. economy, but venture capital also helps create innovation in products and services across startups and new venture teams in Fortune 1000 organizations all over the world. In fact, as the National Bureau of Economic Research reported, venture capital-backed companies have disproportionately contributed to the creation of jobs, market value, and revenue to their local economies.

If you are still reading and wondering why you should be concerned about creating a community culture of innovation, it’s simple economics. If there are more people with disposable financial income in your local area you have a greater potential target audience that you can capture. Conversely, if you are a local business serving a community that has a negative net migration flow (more people moving out of your county than into your county), it reduces the community tax base and may create a downward economic cycle.

If any part of this article motivates you to get more involved investing in local tech talent, there are various ways you can get started:

  1. Connect with your active chamber of commerce,
  2. Participate in local government,
  3. Contribute to community college and university programs,
  4. Get to know your investment community.

As a company focused on innovation and social good, ON ITS AXIS actively partners with venture capital and private equity firms to be the trusted resource in helping their portfolio companies bring products to market, grow in accordance with strategic milestones, and scale effectively.

Want to talk more about this topic? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.