In the heart of "Tech Valley," a new survey is out showing Capital Region employers are having difficulty finding high-tech workers.
The survey of Capital Region businesses and hiring managers intends to share with other businesses what is actually happening in the technical marketplace. Miriam Dushane is managing director with the Capital Region firm Linium Recruiting. "In this survey we did have over 100 respondents from a variety of local businesses responses to the survey with their thoughts and data for the area."
Participating businesses ranged from having a handful of employees to 200 or more. "When we did the survey in the winter, about 70 percent of the respondents said that they were hiring within the first quarter. And so now, as we go to second quarter, 58 percent expect to hire tech jobs in the second quarter. That's not surprising to me at all. I mean, obviously, not every company's going to be hiring quarter after quarter after quarter. That actually is in keeping with what we see, trends that actually happen out of our office, so we usually have a very big beginning of the year where there's a lot of organizations that are making changes, adding positions, and the it settles down in the second quarter."
- The Spring 2016 survey by Linium Recruiting, the region’s leading recruiter for technology-based positions, was conducted between March 21 and April 1, and drew participation from 110 hiring and human resource managers at area companies.
Glancing at the latest numbers, unemployment rates across several area counties are low. New York State Department of Labor newly released figures range from Tompkins County with a 3.5 percent unemployment rate to Albany, Columbia, Dutchess and Saratoga Counties all at 4.1 percent.
Be that as it may, the Spring 2016 survey by the Colonie-based Linium Recruiting office indicates employers struggling to find individuals with high-tech job skills. "It is challenging. You have to move fast, you have to recruit quickly. The supply and demand issue is very much a reality in this area. There are more high-tech jobs available than there are people to fill them." Specifically, there is apparently a shortage of I.T. workers. Dushane notes candidates to fill engineering positions are also in short supply. "We are growing so fast in this area that I just don't think that the people with the right skills are keeping up. It's a matter of having the right education when you get out of college. Overall, every organization has an element of technology and I.T. in their company, so it's not just companies that are developing software that are needing able-bodied individuals. It's insurance companies, it's banks, general industry in addition to sectors that might focus specifically in the technology area."
The need is apparent. State Dept. of Labor Capital Region Labor market Analyst James Ross says most recent projections indicate strong growth in the engineering and I.T. occupations. "The strongest growth is expected to be in electrical engineers, over 60 percent, and industrial engineers, over 50 percent. Also some pretty strong growth in electronics engineers, about 19 percent. Within the I.T. occupations, we're looking at maybe only an 18 percent growth rate overall, but some occupations much stronger. Information security analysts — a big area right now, we're projecting 27 percent growth there. Software developers, applications, over 30 percent."
With the abundance of tech-oriented schools and college courses, you might wonder why capable job-seekers aren't being churned out of the system. After all, the area is home to RPI and ITT, not to mention SUNY Poly.
Complicating the picture, a "Catch-22:" Dushane points out that people who have years of I.T. experience are being passed over because they don't have a degree to show. She claims local colleges are unable to keep up with advances in technology and local employers are unwilling to instruct and develop young grads. "There are a lot of individuals that are graduating from college that have computer science degrees, but they don't have the actual skills needed to go into an organization and immediately pick up programming or coding in a certain language. They're taught at a very theoretical and fundamental level but not necessarily have the strongest coding skills to be able to just hit the ground running in an organization."
Michael Fancher is vice president for business development and economic outreach at SUNY Polytechnic Institute. "In the past, colleges would educate a student, and then set them free in the wild. And then they would have to find a job that fit their skills and then they would have to spend time getting trained on what the specific job requirements were for that employer. Employers do not want to pay for that anymore. They want that student to come online, hit the ground running immediately."
37 percent of Linium survey respondents cited the skills gap as the biggest challenge affecting their ability to hire. Dushane has this advice for college students hoping to land high-tech positions. "Try to take as many coding or programming classes as you possibly can. Every college doesn't offer every single language that's out there in the marketplace, but try to immerse yourself in that as best as you can. And if at all possible, the best thing to do is get hands-on real life experience in the form of internships in area businesses."
- Linium says its Index is designed to assist companies in better understanding the technology job market, and to help them develop strategies to recruit and retain a top-notch workforce. The next quarterly index will be released in early summer.
Dushane's message to employers: "There is a skills gap. There is a supply and demand issue. There's also a retention issue. So, organizations in this area and beyond, if have good talent in their company, they need to identify it and try to hold onto it as best as possible."
Linium Index of High-Tech Hiring – 2Q/Spring 2016 (1Q/Winter 2016 figures in parentheses)
Respondents: Hiring Managers from 110 Capital Region companies
Number of employees:
1-10 12 – 11% (16%)
11-50 7 – 6% (16%)
51-100 13 – 12% (14%)
101-200 27 – 25% (16%)
201+ 51 – 46% (38%)
The field showing the fastest-growing number of opportunities is:
Information Technology 60 – 55% (68%)
Science 6 – 5% (2%)
Engineering 15 – 14% (14%)
Other 29 – 26% (16%)
Among opportunities in the IT field, the greatest demand is for:
Development (web/software/app) 47 – 43% (44%)
Infrastructure (hardware/networking/support) 39 – 35% (38%)
Mobile 7 – 6% (2%)
Business Intelligence 17 – 15% (16%)
During the previous quarter, hiring for technology-based jobs:
Increased 72 – 65% (64%)
No change 37 – 34% (36%)
Decreased 1 – 1% (0)
Over the second quarter of 2016, I expect hiring for technology-based jobs to:
Increase 64 – 58% (70%)
No change 45 – 41% (30%)
Decrease 1 – 1% (0)
Over the next year, my expectations for high-tech job growth can best be described as:
Very optimistic 20 – 18% (18%)
Optimistic 68 – 62% (64%)
Unsure 18 – 16% (16%)
Pessimistic 4 – 4% (0)
Very pessimistic 0 (2%)
As compared to the national economy, the regional economy, including high tech, is:
Much Better 14 – 13% (8%)
Better 51 – 46% (56%)
About the same 37 – 34% (28%)
Worse 7 – 6% (8%)
Much worse 1 – 1% (0)
The biggest challenge affecting my ability to hire is:
Corporate finances 31 – 28% (26%)
Overall business climate 16 – 15% (26%)
Tax and regulatory burdens 8 – 7% (2%)
Health care costs 8 – 7% (2%)
Business development 6 – 6% (6%)
Skills Gap 41 – 37% (38%)
Recruiting and hiring highly skilled employees for technology positions is:
A significant challenge 21 – 19% (18%)
Challenging 63 – 57% (52%)
Improving 16 – 15% (18%)
Consistent with other fields 8 – 7% (12%)
Easy 2 – 2% (0)
Very easy 0 (0)
Retaining highly skilled employees for technology positions is:
A significant challenge 12 – 11% (14%)
Challenging 49 – 44% (46%)
Improving 30 – 27% (18%)
Consistent with other fields 15– 14% (22%)
Easy 4 – 4% (0)
Very easy 0 (0)
I am most successfully recruiting employees for technology positions from:
Within my region 61 – 55% (40%)
Outside my region 11 – 10% (10%)
Mix of within/outside region 38 – 35% (50%)